A holiday dose of levity...
During my recent Christmas travels i’ve had some time both to ponder several things and also to reacquaint myself with some books that have been in my reading pile for far too long.
While traveling the rails on the Southwest Chief from Los Angeles back home to Albuquerque i opened my copy of What is Anglicanism? by Urban T. Holmes III. It’s one of the texts that was made available during the confirmation classes i took early in 2007.
Much of the book strikes me as a bit over my head, and leaves me feeling my lack of theological education, but at the same time i can’t consider that lack to necessarily be a bad thing. Instead, when wandering onto theological paths, it’s like i’ve chosen an unfamiliar trail while hiking. Sometimes there’s interesting scenery, sometimes not; sometimes i feel like i'm on the way to some place special, sometimes i just want to turn around and head back to familiar ground.
There’s a chapter in Holmes’ book entitled “The Episcopacy” which i found particularly interesting, especially when considering John-David Schofield’s recent maneuvers.
The importance of the bishop to Anglican thinking cannot be understood apart from a left handed consciousness: an awareness of the profound symbolic power of the bishop. The bishop is for us the embodiment, the real symbol, of the universality of the church. We believe that as the primordial sacrament of Christ, the church must transcend the immediate time and particular place. The church is a historical incarnation of the eternal Lord in all times and places. This truth is symbolized in the office of the bishop. The church is in and yet above cultural expressions, it stands apart from purely national interests. When one is present with the bishop, he of she is not only aware of this, he or she participates in this trans-historical reality.
This paragraph fairly leapt off the page at me yesterday morning. Try as i might, i cannot square the actions of the former Episcopal Bishop (now Southern Cone Bishop) of San Joaquin with this symbolic role that Holmes finds so central to Anglicanism. As admittedly biased as my view may be, i’m only able to see that John-David has willfully chosen to steep himself in a confined view of the church and reject the symbolic nature of the episcopate. His very actions are antithetical to a core Anglican understanding of the mission of a bishop. That he subverts his role while claiming to wear a shroud of orthodoxy is especially galling.
Holmes continues later in the same chapter:
…episcopacy [has not] ceased being a matter of debate in Anglicanism. The argument centers in the question of whether the episcopacy is of the esse, the bene esse or the plene esse; that is, does it exist for the being, the well being, or the full being of the church. If we adopt the position that it is necessary for the being of the church, we “unchurch” all those without bishops in apostolic succession. As one wag has put it, it is obviously not for the well being of the church. The position I hold is that it is for the full being of the church. This is consistent with its symbolic function.
i tend to give the greatest weight to Holmes’ position that the episcopacy exists for the full being of the church. And it is in that light that the true offense of John-David’s connivance is laid bare.
Please pray for the people of the Diocese of San Joaquin. Please support the mission of Remain Episcopal. Please act for the plene esse of Christ’s church, because it is clear that this bishop's view of his calling has become obscured and limited.
Again, the people in the Diocese of San Joaquin need our prayers. If you can, Remain Episcopal also could use your monetary support.
This item was made for such a week. i swear a heard a scream earlier originating from a couple of canyons over....
One of them:
Myth: Iraq has been "calm" in fall of 2007 and the Iraqi public, despite some grumbling, is not eager for the US to depart. Fact: in the past 6 weeks, there have been an average of 600 attacks a month, or 20 a day, which has held steady since the beginning of November. About 600 civilians are being killed in direct political violence per month, but that number excludes deaths of soldiers and police. Across the board, Iraqis believe that their conflicts are mainly caused by the US military presence and they are eager for it to end.
We did not receive any donations on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. That is only as it should have been. There are some days on which it is right and proper to concentrate on things near to home. However, today things started to move forward again and our new total is:
The OCICBW... (Of Course I Could Be Wrong...) Community Christmas Appeal this year is raising money to help pay for the work being done by the Anglican Church of Christ the King in the City Of God district of Rio De Janeiro. Full details about the project and how to send your gifts can be found HERE.
As we near the close of St. Stephen's Day, please consider adding whatever amount you are able to this worthy effort. If you can donate generously that's great - if you can spare a widow's mite that's equally wonderful.
Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even;
Brightly shone the moon that night, tho' the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight, gath'ring winter fuel.
"Hither, page, and stand by me, if thou know'st it, telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence, underneath the mountain;
Right against the forest fence, by Saint Agnes' fountain."
"Bring me flesh, and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither:
Thou and I will see him dine, when we bear them thither."
Page and monarch, forth they went, forth they went together;
Through the rude wind's wild lament and the bitter weather.
"Sire, the night is darker now, and the winds blow stronger;
Fails my heart, I know not how, I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page. Treadst thou in them boldly:
Thou shalt find the winter's rage freeze thy blood less coldly."
In his master's steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.
This was one of my favorite carols as a child, though i had no idea of what the words spoke. I just liked the tune, and the archaic English.
My prodigal return to Christianity, via the Episcopal Church, has opened me to a great deal of new interest and rich information that was lacking in my childhood understanding of Christianity. The examples of Saints, for instance, i now find fascinating to explore as well as instructional and inspiring. In my Methodist upbringing, "Saints" was just a word in the creeds we spoke, or a way of referring to elderly (usually female) members of our congregation, i.e., "God bless that old saint for coming out to church in this kind of weather." Other than that, Saints were something that the Catholics revered, which was a practice clearly frowned upon in our family.
The carol lyrics above contain a reference to "Good King Wenceslas" who it turns out was not a fictional character but an historical figure, Saint Wenceslas I, Duke of Bohemia, b. 907, d. 935. And the "Feast of Stephen, as everyone reading likely knows, refers to St. Stephen's Day, celebrated by the Western Church on December 26, which commemorates the life & death of Protomartyr Stephen, traditionally regarded as one of the first seven deacons of the early Christian church.
Acts of the Apostles, Chapters 6 & 7
Saint Stephen, by Carlo Crivelli (1476)
Recommended bloggers' posts about Stephen:
Today's LA Times carries an article focusing mostly on John-David Schofield. To my first perusal it seemed to portray JDS in an overly rosy light, but on a second reading it could have been much worse. Still, i may end up sending comments to the author, since several important points are completely unreported.
Pray for all of our brothers & sisters in the Diocese of San Joaquin. If you can, consider making a donation to the folks at Remain Episcopal.
Yesterday Wes drove me down to St. Augustine's by the Sea in Santa Monica so i could attend church. It's a lovely church with friendly folks who always invite me to hang out after the service. Yesterday the invite was for mulled wine on the patio and to help the altar guild with the hanging of the greens. Since Wes was waiting nearby with great forbearance for me to join him, i passed on the invite, but very much appreciated the spirit in which it was offered.
Before our post-service holiday shopping marathon we shared lunch at the Tudor House tearoom, which was very yummy. Good tea, a cornish pastie, and a shared strawberry trifle. Picked up some nice goodies for our Christmas Day dinner guests, who originally hail from the UK and South Africa. We chose a good tea selection and a nice pot of jam with which to gift them. Also, little mince pies for Winnie.
Then began the great shopping adventure. Up and down the Santa Monica promenade and through the mall for 4+ hours. We got everything done, but were well ready for a good glass of wine once we arrived back at Wes' mom's house.
This morning was breakfast with Winnie, then rousting Wes from his slumber so we can head out to pick up comestibles for Christmas dinner. Hopefully we can find a fresh turkey (or goose) for Christmas dinner on short notice. Then it's more time with family, wrapping of presents, and prep for tomorrow's dinner. Ending the day will be a late night Christmas Eve service, location still to be determined.
Merry Christmas everyone!!
Read the Advocate's report here.
So instead today's a day of convalescence. The worst of the fever seems to be over though if i get up and move around too much my temp starts to rise again. Good thing i have such a cute, sleepy doggy to curl up with on the couch.
i've been doing a bit of reading about this particular Advent Sunday and discovered that it's referred to as "Gaudete Sunday" which is something everyone else probably already knows. If not, here's an article that gives some background.
i've tried to post an audio file of the Eton College Chapel Choir singing "Gaudete" but am obviously a technical fumbler this morning!
— H. L. Mencken b. 1880, d. 1956
On November 7, the House of Representatives voted to send a resolution of impeachment of Vice President Cheney to the Judiciary Committee. As Members of the House Judiciary Committee, we strongly believe these important hearings should begin.
The issues at hand are too serious to ignore, including credible allegations of abuse of power that if proven may well constitute high crimes and misdemeanors under our constitution. The charges against Vice President Cheney relate to his deceptive actions leading up to the Iraq war, the revelation of the identity of a covert agent for political retaliation, and the illegal wiretapping of American citizens.
Read the rest here, because you probably won't see this op-ed piece published in many newspapers.
David Neiwert's article over at the Campaign for America's Future website highlights some long-overdue legislative efforts against the imposition of Recreation Access Taxes (a/k/a RAT taxes), which function to squeeze more money out of our public lands to line the pockets of private interests.
"It's a sure indicator that all-out rot has begun to sink into conservatism as a governing philosophy when even people in the red states that normally constitute the right's electoral base begin to figure that there's something wrong here.
The point no doubt came home for many of them the past three years when they decided to go fishing or camping somewhere and found that they were being expected to fork over even more money at the trailhead -- with the money actually going toward the private development of business on those lands.
Last week, Sens. Max Baucus, D-Montana, and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, introduced legislation that would bring an end to the Bush administration's scheme to make the public pay twice for using public lands, all to the benefit of the resource-extraction industry."
So, the man leading them in a schism which is ostensibly precipitated by the consecration of The Episcopal Church's first openly gay non-celibate bishop may himself be gay. To my mind, that explains a lot, especially the numerous vociferous objections Schofield has made over the years to the ordination and service of 'non-celibate homosexuals'.
The cathedral of the San Joaquin diocese, St. James, offers:
specialized ministry and outreach to those who are confused in their gender orientation or who are struggling with addictive behavior toward pornography. We share space on our campus with New Creation Ministries, an outreach of love [ED: harmful reparative therapy] to those who wish to be healed of sexual brokenness [ED: codephrase for homosexuality / lesbianism] and we are launching our own small group healing ministries to strugglers.
Reading between the lines, the whole thing just increases exponentially in sadness.
Bishop: Will you maintain and set forwards, as much as lieth in you, quietness, peace, and love, among all Christian people, and especially among them that are or shall be committed to your charge?
Candidate for ordination: I will so do, the Lord being my helper.
Bishop: Will you reverently obey your Bishop, and other chief Ministers, who, according to the Canons of the Church, may have the charge and government over you; following with a glad mind and will their godly admonitions, and submitting yourselves to their godly judgments?
Candidate for ordination: I will so do, the Lord being my helper.
Several years ago i had my first opportunity to perform the duties of a Human Resources Director for a mid-sized non-profit social services agency. In that capacity, i quickly discovered that managing employees was very different from being a rank and file employee. It was a change in perspective that required a greater personal commitment from me to the mission of the agency.
One event that stands out in my memories of that time was the arrival of a letter from an employee who supervised other employees in their provision of in-home services to the elderly and others living with disabilities. Her letter took the form of a resignation notice, but with a twist that took me by surprise. She stated clearly that she was not resigning from her position as a supervisor, but she was resigning from some of her supervisory duties. This was accompanied by a list of responsibilities that she was no longer wished to carry.
'Incredulous' is one of those words that describes something you have to experience in order to fully appreciate its meaning.
What i also could appreciate after reading her letter were the feelings of this employee. Who wouldn't sometimes like the ability to send out a notice to those to whom we owe obligation: "Dear (spouse, parent, boss, bank, child-o-mine), I hereby notify you that while i will continue to be your (spouse, child, employee, customer, parent) i find some of my responsibilities to you disagreeable, so as of today I will no longer (wash your underwear, listen to you, perform certain essential tasks that you're paying me for, pay my mortgage, take care of you)?
As a friend of mine puts in his colorful way, "that would go over like a fart in church".
i think it's obvious that we each define, to some extent, how we live out our roles as spouses, children, employees, etc., but the fact is that when we step up to the plate, we accept that the responsibilities of those roles sometimes require pieces of us that we'd maybe not always feel like giving. But whether it's love, or integrity, or honor, or something else that may prompt us, hopefully we recognize that we're part of something bigger than just our trivial, transient 'les desires du jour'. However justified we may feel we are in our self-preoccupations.
So, what did i do about the employee who informed me she was resigning "from the following responsibilities of my job"? I talked with her, listened to her frustrations, then gently explained that she had two options. She could continue fulfilling the responsibilities of the job she'd accepted, or she could choose to step away from that position and into another one that placed fewer demands on her.
There would be consequences - choosing a job with less responsibility would also mean less authority and compensation. The choice was hers to make. But that choice would have to be within the context the agency defined if she were to remain an employee. She didn't have the authority to redefine how the agency allocated job duties and compensation by personal fiat, and even though i was the HR Director, neither did i.
And in another context, neither do the individuals who have been leading the Diocese of San Joaquin have the authority to redefine the oaths they have taken and still remain what they were.
Lord help us all.
From his post:
I wish she [++KJS] and all of our bishops would visit the Tenderloin in San Francisco where so many lgbt youth, having been kicked out on the street, end up hustling and addicted to drugs. This is no theoretical for me. Had I come out in my teens, that’s likely where I would have ended up as well. Let's put our bishops to work serving these youth for a few days before they pronounce again on our lives. Good conservative and liberal straight people alike can tisk-tisk all they want; but it is attitudes toward lgbt people in this society fostered and often heightened and justified by Christian authorities that lead to this reality for lgbt youth. Perhaps a little self-examination rather than tisk-tisking is in order, rather than always turning the cards on lgbt people as Canterbury did in his also infamous Netherlands interview.
Hear, hear. Be sure to check out the comments to his post. PiscoSours voices something that i've long felt but have not been able to articulate as well.
Numerous bloggers, led by MadPriest have come together in an effort to raise much needed funds for the worthy misson programs of Christ the King. Why not pop over to Of Course I Could Be Wrong (OCICBW) and join in the effort?
Anyway, recently a friend of mine posted an entry about the fungelical reactions to the upcoming release of the movie. Predictably, they don't like it. Though of course they haven't seen it yet. Probably haven't read the books, either. Prejudice is such a time-saver. You don't have to muck around with all that thinking.
For those who do appreciate a thoughtful read, i came across an interview at More Intelligent Life with Philip Pullman, author of The Golden Compass.
Here's an excerpt:
It all began in the last 15 minutes of a wet Friday afternoon in a classroom in Oxford. Or that's how you would want to tell it. After reading English at Exeter College, Oxford, Pullman did stints working at Moss Bros, the suit-hire shop, and a public library. Aged 25, he qualified as a teacher, mainly, he says, because he liked the idea of the holidays. It was the early 1970s, there was no National Curriculum, no Sats and league tables, and "no bumptious ignorant twit in Whitehall telling me what to do and how to teach". So Pullman found that he had time to tell stories. He believes all teachers should be able to tell a story "at a moment's notice to a class for the last quarter of an hour on a wet Friday afternoon". Not read it, he insists-tell it. "If you're reading out of a book all the time, nothing changes. But if you tell it face to face, you improvise a bit, you play around..."
He set about this task in a typically deliberate way. In the first term, he decided, he would do the births and deaths of the gods and goddesses, their natures and deeds; in the second term he would do the origins of the Trojan war, which would segue into "The Iliad"; and in the third term, he would do "The Odyssey". He prepared each week's story thoroughly so he could tell it without notes. He was teaching three separate classes, which meant telling each episode three times in a week. Again, the math is impressive. "I must have told each story 36 times."
It was a perfect apprenticeship, giving him "an unsupervised, unnoticed little area of ground" to cultivate his own talent and find out what kinds of stories he could tell. Others might be good at making people laugh; he wasn't particularly. "But I was good at doing exciting stuff that kept them listening." He was drawn to a world of "once upon a time", "meanwhile", and "suddenly", of hidden hands and knocks on the door, of dark, stormy nights, shadows and surprises, ogres and-time and again-orphans. He says he couldn't do the storytelling now. "I'd be sacked, I'd go to prison: ‘You're not fulfilling the requirements of the National Curriculum! Away with you!'"
You can find the rest of the article here.
It's been twenty six years since reports of the outbreak of a mysterious disease first called GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency, a/k/a Gay Cancer) began to appear. i remember quite clearly those times. It was 1981, the year i graduated from high school. The year after i'd begun the process of coming out and also first had sex with another guy.
Those were times of ignorance and fear.
1981 also turns out to have been the year after my beloved partner, whom i met in 2002, sero-converted and began a new chapter of his life. Today he's a healthy long term AIDS survivor in addition to being one of the best (and most handsome!) men i've ever been blessed to know and love.
HIV/AIDS has shaped my adult life in ways that i could never adequately convey. From the early panic, through years of AIDS service volunteering and the peculiar survivors' guilt of the HIV-negative, past the times when i oddly felt that i was entitled to just chuck safe-sex practice and take my chances, this disease and our society's response to it have intimately touched my experience.
A few years ago a young gay friend of mine, Matthew, asked me what those early days of AIDS were like. i told him about a family that invited me to dinner at their home during the early eighties. I had long stopped hiding the fact that i was gay in the small West Virginia college town where i lived. When dinner was served my meal arrived on a paper plate accompanied by plastic utensils. The rest of them ate on regular china. "That's awful!" said Matthew, "What did you do?" I told him i shared a lovely meal with them, because in that time of ignorance and fear they had opened their home to me when many others wouldn't have even shaken my hand. I was a gay man in a time of intense stigma, when gay men who appeared healthy one week were all too frequently dying only weeks later, looking like victims of Auschwitz. And the people we expected to provide good information, the doctors or scientists, seemed to know nothing or could only contradict each other.
In 1985, when it was common in my twenty-two year old life to watch friends suddenly and inexplicably sicken and die, my doctor told me that my lymph glands were chronically swollen in more than three areas of my body. At that time, it was one of the recognized indicators that a gay man might have been exposed to AIDS. She told me i might have AIDS, i might have lymphatic cancer, or that it could be nothing to worry about.
I took my first Western Blot (or was it an ELISA - i can't remember the protocols then) test to find out if antibodies to the virus were present in my body. Then followed a tense week (that was how long it took for results). i remember borrowing my friend and roommate Milton's car and driving out into the West Virginia woods for a good long sob. When the results arrived, they were negative. Turns out i have an overactive immune system and the swollen lymph glands were part and parcel of the way my body works.
My friend Milton Stiles died of AIDS in Pittsburgh in 1988. I consider it one of the blessings of my life that i was able to find a way up to Pittsburgh to see him just a month before his death. He was always an odd duck, and to this day remembering him brings a smile to my lips. I can still see him in some tacky outfit that he thought was the height of fashion, smoking his Meerscham pipe, raving over some old Star Trek episode that he thought summed up a revelatory truth about life. I ask you, can anyone under the age of thirty (or fifty for that matter) smoke a Meerscham pipe without looking ridiculous? Bless you, Milton.
My friend Randy, a chaplain serving those living with HIV, a man living with AIDS himself, and a fellow parishioner at St. Michael's, spoke last night at an interfaith service held at the MCC Albuquerque. This morning he sent me the link to a speech by Sean Strub, the respected AIDS activist and founder of POZ magazine, delivered in 2005 in San Francisco at the National AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park.
As we stand here on World Aids Day, in this magnificent setting, our theme, and my assigned topic, is "Embrace Life." But I may not address it in quite the way the organizers intended. I find it hard to Embrace Life when...Read the rest of his speech here.
...A judge in Mississippi, this past summer, barred three children from living with their aunt--simply because she has HIV.
...I find it hard to Embrace Life when, just two weeks ago, the FDA succumbs to religious conservatives and announces plans to require warning labels on condoms, casting doubts on their effectiveness in preventing disease.
…And how can I "Embrace Life" when last month, Gary Carriker, a gay man living with HIV in Georgia, was sentenced to several years in prison. His crime? Not disclosing he had HIV to sexual partners. None have sero-converted. But that didn’t matter. Nor does it matter, under Georgia and other states’ laws, whether condoms were used. Or how risky or safe their activities were.
These horrific examples of stigma and fear-mongering tell us much about where we are today in fighting AIDS in the United States. Even while there have been important medical advances and expanded access to treatment around the world, people with HIV now face political opposition more extreme than anything we’ve seen since the start of the epidemic. This is not just rhetoric. Many of our hardest-won victories, from science-based prevention to health-care access to basic human rights—have, with the rise of George Bush and his evangelical constituency, been rolled back. Five years ago, for example it was unthinkable that America’s war on AIDS would become a war on condoms. Today it hardly makes headlines.
Several years ago my mother was sharing her feelings about getting older, and especially about what it was like to watch so many friends pass away. i gently told her "Yes, i know what that's like." The look that crossed her face reminded me of the sound of a needle skipping across a record album. Then i watched the realization dawn in her eyes. "Yes, i guess you do," she said, her voice full of love and grief.
Remember those who are no longer here and tell their stories. Tell your stories. Keep fighting until there is a cure. Until there is, keep promoting PREVENTION!
Wormwood's Doxy, who works for AIDS.gov, recommends that EVERYONE make HIV testing a routine part of their medical care. Especially if you know you are not at risk for exposure - so that others will see there is no stigma to taking the test.
This is a picture from "Jesus '74", a Jesus Festival that was held in Mercer, Pennsylvania starting on August 1, 1974. Guess who the little fey kid is on the right. Reminds me of the nephew in the popular television show 'Ugly Betty'! No wonder my parents said they 'had their suspicions' when i came out to them as a gay man in 1982. I was only eleven years old when this picture was taken. The fellow in the center is my brother and the lady on the left was the Rev. Maybelle Johnston, the pastor of our family's church. She's the pastor who baptized me a couple of years later.
When i look at this picture, i can recall the innocence of my youth. This was before i felt the stirrings of sexual attractions, but i already knew that i was somehow very different from the other boys i knew. Definitely more fun, more creative, and much more fond of hanging with girls my age than boys. i was also an extroverted ham back then, as this picture suggests. That would all change in a few years when my world morphed into one characterized by shame and self-hatred. Don't worry, it got better!
Funny, the only other things i recall from the festival pictured are meeting Joni Eareckson (Tada) and seeing Andre Crouch and the Disciples perform. Oh, and carrying around one of those big paperback "The Way" bibles.
With the hindsight of adulthood, i recognize that the boy pictured was very happy, with a simplistic and pious view of Christianity that bordered on fundamentalism. He seems almost completely foreign to me now, yet someone that i can look at with love. Especially knowing what the coming years would bring to him.
The Rev. Johnston passed away last year. I suspect hearing that news was another nudge toward opening up again to Christianity. How amazing it is to discover that there is so much more to learn and grow into than i knew about at eleven. How naive of me to not have realized that earlier.