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Friday, November 28, 2003

Hugo is home from a whirlwind family visit to Northern California. We had a very happy Thanksgiving gathering, which included much discussion of the president's surprise visit to Iraq. My family is a microcosm of the political divide in this country; we were almost evenly split on whether or not this was a grand and fine gesture or a cynical media stunt. (The Independent characterized it as "The Turkey Has Landed").

As a family we were civil, but I am not so sure our nation is equally prepared to be civil on the subject of this deeply divisive president. I have no intention of voting for W., but I like him personally. I am troubled by how few folks on the Left like our president; I was equally troubled by how few folks on the Right liked his predecessor (of whom I was also quite fond, truth be told). What is so difficult, I wonder, about respecting and liking someone while simultaneously disagreeing with him (or her)? Why can't more folks say "Aw, he's a heckuva guy, but I think he's absolutely wrong"?


Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Hugo will be away from the computer for the next few days, taking time for family and Thanksgiving. I don't suspect I'll be blogging again until next Monday.

The conservative Anglican blogger Kendall Harmon posted this on his website this morning. I honor the sentiment, and agree with it unreservedly. If all of us on all sides of this argument stuck this on their blogs this week, it would be a good thing indeed:

“A civilisation is a conversation scored for many voices. But that means an active commitment to preserve the protocols of public debate. It means not shutting out the voices of those with whom you disagree. It means modernists not calling their opponents fundamentalists, and conservatives thinking twice before calling the other side heretics. This is not a call for politeness. It is the recognition that in a world larger and more complex than our imagination can compass, humility is more than a virtue. It is an imperative. It doesn't make headlines. It isn't even fun. Unless we can create, within each of our faiths, a culture of civility and respect, we will fail the challenge God is setting us now."

--Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, in the London Times (Bold is Hugo's)

Happy Thanksgiving! Leave me a comment or two, y'all, and make me happy.
Christianity Today reports on the growing support for a Federal Marriage Amendment among Christian conservatives, many of whom believe that marriage will be the defining social issue of the 2004 election. The problem for the right is that conservatives are badly split over whether or not to also try and invalidate "civil unions" (such as those allowed in California and Vermont), which some see as "marriage in all but name".

This presents a key opportunity for the left, and a danger for cultural conservatives. Most Americans seem to support domestic partnerships for gays and lesbians, but they do not support actual marriage rights for same-sex couples. The right needs to decide whether they are going to protect the specific institution of marriage, or whether they are going to try for the larger prize of denying all legal and economic benefits to non-traditional couples. The first strategy will prove more popular, but it will not satisfy the hardline conservatives who want to do away with all forms of domestic partnership.

The more moderate wing is represented by the Alliance for Marriage. They support this amendment to the constitution:

Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this constitution or the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups
.

The "construed to require" clause means that states like California or Vermont could continue to offer benefits to domestic partners that were equivalent to those granted to married couples. This drives the hardline right nuts, and groups like the American Family Association and Concerned Women for America want to add this to the amendment:

"Neither the federal government nor any state shall predicate benefits, privileges, rights or immunities on the existence, recognition, or presumption of non-marital sexual conduct or relationships."

Frankly, I hope the far right pushes for that sentence to be in the marriage amendment. It would be a deal-killer, and would provide the political cover for Democrats to vote against it in Congress and the state legislatures. The conservatives are clearly worried about the possibility of just that; columnist Maggie Gallagher (with whom I disagree vehemently, but whose writing I enjoy) has this important article on the subject of marriage, civil unions, and conservative disarray in the Weekly Standard. She writes:

In the long run, I believe that creating legal alternatives to marriage is counterproductive and wrong. But civil unions are one unwise step down a path away from a marriage culture. Gay marriage is the end of the road.

Which is why I cannot join any coalition willing to fight only for the whole loaf but certain to go down to "noble" defeat. I cannot back a coalition threatening to hold politicians hostage unless they support a constitutional amendment that would permanently ban civil unions. To win any constitutional amendment at all will require far more than mobilizing the conservative base. It will require actually changing the minds of a substantial fraction of Americans...


Good stuff, Maggie. Bring on the internecine warfare!
We knew this was coming: Gov. Schwarzenegger has proposed drastic and devastating cutbacks to such vital programs as Healthy Families and CalWorks (the welfare-to-work program that was the darling of conservatives not so very long ago). He also asks for a 10% cut in payments to Medi-Cal providers, despite the fact that has the lowest provider rates in the nation, making it near impossible for many poor folks to find physicians. It's a nasty, ugly set of proposals, and coming on top of the dramatic reduction in the Vehicle License Fee, it's downright offensive.

Monday, November 24, 2003

The supermarket strike goes on, and on. I have spent far more than I normally would on trips to the premium market Gelson's, but comfort myself with the reminder that "doing justice" at the very least almost always involves incurring extra expense and enduring inconvenience. Clearly, I am not alone; the Times reports today that this past weekend, pre-Thanksgiving shoppers were still honoring the picket lines to a a remarkable degree:

...spot checks at stores in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties found that business was heaviest at markets not involved in the contract battle between grocers and the United Food and Commercial Workers union, as well as at Ralphs stores, where pickets were removed Oct. 31.

Throughout the labor dispute, the supermarket chains haven't been commenting on sales or customer traffic for the region. The weekend before Thanksgiving traditionally is among the busiest for supermarkets, but striking workers said it was far from business as usual at Vons and Albertsons in the region
.

And here is a woman with the right set of values:

At Gelsons... where a 12-pound turkey went for nearly $19, Tarzana resident Laura Silverman knew that her allegiance to the strikers was costing her money.

"I'm probably paying triple for this turkey, but I don't care," Silverman said. "I absolutely will not cross the picket line, not a chance. The medical insurance issue is too important."


Of course, Laura and I can afford to put our money where our values are. So frankly, can most folks who can get online and read this blog!
The Los Angeles Times Sunday magazine ran a piece yesterday about Pasadena's own Fuller Seminary and the rise of "post-evangelicalism". The Times rather glibly sums up that stance thus:

...a Christian philosophy that reconciles science and Bible, body and soul; opposes both war and abortion; goes to Hollywood parties and even hosts them; and leapfrogs the two-party political divide. All while refusing to renounce its conservative-evangelical tag.

Hurrah! My people!

Several of my heroes (Nancey Murphy, Richard Mouw, and Jim Wallis) make appearances in the article; it's worth a read. Though I have never taken a class at Fuller, my own Pasadena Mennonite Church is largely stocked by Fuller students and alumni, and "Fuller folk" have more or less completely formed my own burgeoning understanding of what it means to be a Christian in the 21st century.


Saturday, November 22, 2003

Gaudete!!!
Reasons to be grumpy: In the third quarter, USC is beating UCLA, Stanford is beating my beloved Cal Golden Bears, and today's visit to the "Ratemyprofessors.com" site reveals that while the reviews of my teaching are generally laudatory, I have recently been called the following: a "neo-Nazi" (of all things, for Pete's sake); a "mediocre lecturer"; "overrated". Bewildering, and frankly hurtful; it's funny how fragile our egos are! And funny too how we regard negative comments as naturally more truthful than the positive ones. I simply have to trust I am in the right profession...

But the weather is gorgeous (autumnal, breezy, cool, clear) and my running group had a glorious trek up the Mt. Wilson Toll Road this morning in my adored San Gabriel Mountains. I am indeed blessed.
The "web-elves" at Classical Anglican Net News are to be credited for this link to a splendid address by the retiring bishop of Ohio, J. Clark Grew II. Yes, there has been a lot said in the church lately in the aftermath of the Gene Robinson consecration, but there is always room for more, especially when it is this thoughtful:

We have to have the courage to say “no” to the death games, and we have to start saying “no” much earlier than we do.

The first little death game that we play is “Judgment.” We give people names, and we put them in cages. Orthodox. Liberal. Revisionist. Heretic, Conservative. Apostate. The words have a chilling effect.

What we are saying is, “I don’t have to talk to you. I don’t have to take you seriously. I know who she is or he is, and I know where she belongs, and the matter of being in relationship is dismissed. We project. We assume. We decide. We discount. That person does not belong to me.

But instead, what I ask is that we, in each of our churches, work hard to discard this labeling. It is the work of the evil one. Say “no” to the death game.

We have to say “no” to something else. We have to say “no” to our own self-rejection, to our own feelings of guilt. Part of the peacemaking that our church needs to do is resisting. We have to say “no,” in other words, to our taking the role of victim. Victims can rarely be peacemakers. As people of God, we have to hear the words of forgiveness that Jesus offers from the cross.

We must remember that the Church is where we meet the person that we would least like to live with, so we have to move from dwelling on what others have done to us to being thankful for the presence of those same people in our community. We must become part of and find our place in a new ecclesia, a church where all are celebrated as part of the wonder and the joy and the mystery of God. We have a way to go, but be of good cheer. Christ Jesus has overcome the world, and you don’t have to be a victim any more.
(All bold emphases are Hugo's).

Yes, Bishop Grew voted for Gene Robinson at General Convention. Yes, he's a moderate ("fuzzy wuzzy" is how they put it at CANN). But tell me, what is unbiblical about this extended quotation? Good stuff, it is.
England won the Rugby World Cup today in a thriller, besting the Australians. I am quite pleased; no offense to my Antipodean readers, but the Cup belongs in Britain. (I would rather Wales or Scotland had it, but I'll cheer the English in a pinch). The "Big Game" is this afternoon; my heart will be with my beloved Golden Bears.

One thing that comforts my heart are splits among conservatives. I am not thrilled with the current Medicare bill, but am very glad to see that the far right is breaking with the White House over the issue. Check out Townhall.Com for a long list of articles bemoaning the administration's support for the prescription drug benefit. A pity the right could not muster sufficient support to beat the bill...

Friday, November 21, 2003

I am busy with grading again. This time, I am making my way through autobiography papers for my women's history students; if there is one genre of written work that is unlikely to be plagued by plagiarism, it should be autobiographies. But one never knows.

Thomas Aquinas College, the terrific, tiny, and traditional Catholic school in the lovely hills of eastern Ventura County, has had a long financial relationship with Carl Karcher Enterprises (CKE), the owners of Carl's Jr. This week, the college asked Andrew Puzder, president of CKE, to step down from its board of governors in response to Carl's Jr.'s use of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner in its latest ad campaign.

In one 30-second spot that he shares with three young women, Hefner, wearing his trademark silk pajamas, flashes his Cheshire cat grin and talks about his love of variety.

"People always ask me, 'Hey, Hef, do you have favorites?' " he says, coyly. "I tell them no. It's not about that. I love them all. It just depends what I'm in the mood for."

Hefner then proceeds to devour a bacon cheeseburger, while a narrator comments, "Some guys don't like the same thing night after night."

Puzder explained the decision to tap Hefner as a spokesman for the fast-food chain in a Nov. 3 statement announcing the new campaign.

"Who better to deliver the message of variety than Hugh Hefner," Puzder said. "We're appealing to an audience of young, hungry guys who expect a quality product but want to have something different from time to time. As a pop icon, Hefner appeals to our target audience and credibly appeals to our message of variety."


Puzder had been on the board at Aquinas since 1998, and the quotation above seems to indicate that he's a fellow who has a bit of trouble integrating his faith into the marketplace...

Of course, Hefner is an enormously important cultural figure; for better or for worse (and I am generally -- but not entirely -- inclined to think for the latter), he and those who have followed him have genuinely transformed American society. Here's a link to a recent NPR interview with him, and it includes this gem:

"Part of the sexual revolution is bringing rationality to sexuality," Hefner says. "Because when you don't embrace sexuality in a normal way, you get the twisted kinds, and the kinds that destroy lives."


!!!!!!!????????????

Now that is hubris, folks... The idea that the Playboy image is either "rational" or "normal" is simply flabbergasting.

Here's a great anti-porn site; it takes a while to load, but worth the visit (I like it for the title alone); Erase the Dark.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

The National Review is also over-the-top this morning, doing its best to fan the flames of the culture war. Writing on the subject of this week's decision on gay rights in Massachusetts, NRO opines:

...no honest middle ground exists. If you oppose gay marriage, then you cannot support, or even be neutral toward, the Massachusetts decision. That decision holds that the equal dignity of citizens requires gay marriage. If you do not oppose the decision, you do not really oppose gay marriage.

Actually, the difficulty for those who would prefer to sit on the fence is even worse than that. If you agree with the Massachusetts ruling — if you think that it was rightly reasoned as well as rightly decided — you cannot even be a moderate supporter of gay marriage who believes that intelligent people of good will may disagree. Opponents of gay marriage are irrational bigots, equivalent to the people who opposed interracial marriage in bygone days.


Those who occupy the far left and far right sides of the political spectrum are fond of decrying the muddled thinking and the evident contradictions of those folks who describe themselves as "moderates" on issues like abortion and gay marriage. But on issues as profoundly personal and complex as those two, I cannot help but think that a position of honest-to-goodness ambivalence isn't the soundest of all. With abortion, two fundamental goods collide: the freedom to control one's destiny and the right of every created human life to live until natural death.

With gay marriage, the fundamental goods are equally compelling: the freedom to choose the partner with whom one will spend one's life (and to have that choice sanctioned by the community) with the right of the majority of society to protect the millenia-old definition of the bedrock institution of our culture, the family.

Frankly, I am a bit bewildered by any rational person who doesn't feel an emotional and intellectual tug to both positions on either issue. Then again, Dante put his indecisive Neutrals outside of Hell, compelling them to spend eternity running after blank banners. I've always had a real heart for those folks! There are some who don't choose sides out of cowardice or a desire to be liked; there are others who genuinely are frozen by two equally compelling and contradictory arguments. I'd like to think this blogger is frequently in the latter camp.
Check out this partisan but terrific graphic, courtesy of Gutless Pacifist. It is, as GP admits, a bit over the top, but mild by the standards of most political invective...

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Everybody on the Christian Left in the blogosphere will link to this, but no matter, I will as well: Jim Wallis issued today a marvelous statement on gays and marriage, calling for a middle way. (The Sojourners website does seem to be having some problems today...)

Here are some excerpts:

The Left has misdiagnosed the roots of our present social crisis, mostly leaving out the critical dimension of family breakdown as a fundamental component of problems like poverty and violence. These issues are not just important to the Religious Right, or simply bourgeois concerns. We do need to rebuild strong and healthy two-parent family systems. We desperately need more families with moms and dads and kids, strong male and female role models in both "nuclear" and extended family systems. It's not a matter of whether that should be "the norm"; it simply is the norm in this society and every other one. The question, rather, is how that family norm can be a healthy one.

But then:

But the Right has seized upon this agenda and turned it into a mean-spirited crusade. To say gay and lesbian people are responsible for the breakdown of the heterosexual family is simply wrong. That breakdown is causing a great social crisis that impacts us all, but it is not the fault of gays and lesbians. It has very little to do with them. Their civil and human rights must also be honored, respected, and defended for a society to be good and healthy. It is a question of both justice and compassion. To be both pro-family and pro-gay and lesbian civil rights could open up some common ground that might take us forward.

There is a middle way. We can make sure that long-term gay and lesbian partnerships are afforded legitimate legal protections in a pluralistic society without changing our long-standing and deeply rooted concept of marriage as being between a man and a woman. That should continue to be the theology of the church and the way our society best orders itself.


I like that. Great good sense.



But back to homosexuality. I learned about this quiz from Andrew Sullivan; it's good stuff and a nice contribution to the discussion.
Here's a good story about the Episcopal Church that does not have anything to do with homosexuality: James Tramel, a convicted murderer, is about to be ordained to the transitional diaconate (the first step to being a priest) up north in the Diocese of California. It's a powerful story about forgiveness and redemption and possibility. Note that the story has a link to a website that advocates for Tramel's parole.

On a slightly related note, as many Los Angelenos know, our splendid bishop, Jon Bruno, was once a Burbank police officer. To save the life of his partner, he shot and killed a man in the line of duty. He is believed to be the only current bishop in the ECUSA to have taken a life, and it is a moving part of his story. I don't think that the killings Tramel and Bruno took part in are morally equivalent, but they were both shattering acts of violence that turned both men towards the priesthood. It's an interesting thing to ponder on this balmy morning.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Our new governor has repealed the car tax. Since my registration is due every November, I have already paid and can now anticipate a refund. I intend to put my money where my mouth is, and donate every cent of that refund to charity. (I might even send it right back to Sacramento, but that might confuse the blighters a bit).

So, I am issuing a challenge and a call for suggestions. The challenge is to my fellow Californian bloggers: if any of you are due to receive a refund, I ask that you consider donating it to the charity of your choice. I recognize that not all of us are in a financial position to do so, but I know I can't be the only one blessed enough to be able to afford this! I am also soliciting suggestions for California-based charities to which to send my refund money. Most of the charities I give to (Mennonite Central Committee, Sierra Club, Christian Peacemaker Teams, Feminists for Life, etc) are national or international organizations. I want this money to stay here in California... I am open to any and all ideas... but folks, let's limit them to legitimate non-profits.
The Massachusetts High Court has ruled in favor of same-sex marriages, details will be available soon and everywhere. Here are a couple of places to look for two differing reactions:

The Human Rights Campaign
The Family Research Council

In 2001, I taught a seminar on Gay and Lesbian American History. (And had a classroom filled with diverse students with widely differing views and feelings on homosexuality). One thing that I noted then and I note again now: no group that has ever sought equal rights within American society has failed to win them. All civil rights movements in this country eventually succeed, though they may take generations and even centuries to reach true acceptance. I suspect that decades from now, when the history of sexual minorities is written (again), 2003 will be considered a watershed year in the struggle for inclusion. The Supreme Court ruling in June, the election of Gene Robinson, and today's Massachusetts High Court decision will all be seen as small but crucially important steps forward.

I know many, many good and decent people who fear that the legitimization of same-sex marriage will undermine not only heterosexual marriage, but the fabric of civilized society itself. Though I find those arguments unconvincing, I am also aware that this is an issue upon which good men and women of faith (and without faith) can passionately disagree. I don't use the term "homophobic" or "bigot" to describe the kind and well-meaning opponents of inclusion for gays and lesbians; I know that many (alas, not all) of those same opponents refrain from using equally offensive terms like "immorality" and "perversion".

Monday, November 17, 2003

Almost a year ago, the conservative Catholic philosopher George Weigel published an article in First Things, "Moral Clarity in a Time of War". It was a stirring defense of the Just War tradition and its continued relevance to the contemporary war on terrorism. Here is an excerpt:

As a tradition of statecraft, the just war argument recognizes that there are circumstances in which the first and most urgent obligation in the face of evil is to stop it. Which means that there are times when waging war is morally necessary to defend the innocent and to promote the minimum conditions of international order. This, I suggest, is one of those times. Grasping that does not require us to be “pagans.” It only requires us to be morally serious and politically responsible. Moral seriousness and political responsibility require us to make the effort to “connect the dots” between means and ends.

Thus the just war tradition is best understood as a sustained and disciplined intellectual attempt to relate the morally legitimate use of proportionate and discriminate military force to morally worthy political ends.
(Emphasis mine).

In a recent issue of Mennonite Life, several noted Anabaptist scholars responded to Weigel. Click on the link in the previous sentence for all of their excellent essays, but here are a few excerpts:

The church is a political experiment in which one can risk being vulnerable to the other because one has learned to appreciate that life is not a given to be protected and secured, but rather a gift received and exchanged as counter-gift... the Christian pacifist agrees with Weigel's claim that peace is something created, not found. The point which Weigel misses, however, is that peace is not created by us. Rather, the pacifist claims that Christians are called to meet that peace which has already been given, even if not fully received.

--Chris Huebner

"Not created by us". That makes good sense. And then this powerful challenge to Weigel from another Mennonite:

In what ways, if any, are your views particularly or uniquely Christian? Perhaps the most obvious, though certainly not the most profound ("profundity" would require an explication especially of the meaning of cross and resurrection), way to pose this question is to ask about the meaning of love of enemy. This is something, which seems mandated by Jesus but something which seems scandalously unreasonable. It is also something that does not enter into your discussion. Is this absence because love of enemy in Jesus' teaching is only "personal" and not "political"? Is God's revelation in Jesus relevant only to the personal, but not to the political (even though you rightly argue that morality is relevant to both the personal and the political, including war)?

-Ted Koontz

Much hinges on discerning what "loving the enemy" really means; the Mennonite insistence that the "enemy" always includes the likes of Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden is one of the precepts that drew me to Anabaptism.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

No blogging today; too busy with running and other things. (Including a one-mile walk to the Rose Bowl to see today's UCLA-Oregon football game). Be back on Monday.

Friday, November 14, 2003

I know you are all gripped to know what I have been reading and listening to.

This is what I am listening to at the moment: Gram Parsons Anthology , especially the duets with Emmylou Harris.

And just this week, I have been making my way through the following books:

Susannah Moore, In the Cut
Susan Bordo, The Male Body
Ann Packer, The Dive from Clausen's Pier

and I am rereading a wonderful little book by my friend and hero, Richard Mouw. Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivilized World

Keeps me busy, it all does.
The Rev. Michael Hopkins, the immediate past president of IntegrityUSA, preached this sermon last Saturday. He takes on conservative Anglican blogger, Kendall Harmon:

“The Episcopal Church as we know it is dying,” proclaimed American Anglican Council spokesperson Kendall Harmon last week. He is casting himself in the role of Jonah under the bush. It is better for this church to die than for us to suffer this abominable inclusion.

Now, granted, Canon Harmon does not believe this is about inclusion. “Everyone is welcome,” he also recently wrote, “the debate is not nor will it ever be about inclusion.” With all due respect, he is very, very wrong. Everyone is not welcome. It is clear to me that he does not understand what the word welcome means as a theological term, as a gospel term.


Hopkins ties together the Jonah story with the parable of the prodigal son, noting that the issue of repentance (a key word for conservatives in this debate) is not required for the prodigal to be embraced by his father. Hopkins skillfully casts theological conservatives as the angry older brother in the prodigal story, enraged that his father does not require repentance from the son before he embraces him.

The sermon goes on, but then Hopkins addresses the conservative notion of "alternative episcopal oversight" for disaffected traditionalist parishes in the Episcopal Church:

If you have not figured it out yet, one of the implications of what I am saying is that I believe we must resist the move for “alternative episcopal oversight.” I personally believe it is a betrayal of the catholic tradition and far more closer to heresy than the question of with whom I sleep. I know that there are liberals in dioceses like San Diego who themselves would love alternative oversight, but I remain unconvinced that it is a truly viable option for the good of the whole church. I am not opposed to individual dioceses and bishops making decisions to allow some measure of alternative visitation. Such has gone on since at least the ritual wars of the mid-19th century. But alternative oversight is a caving in to that cultural impulse to have it “my way or the highway.” It would be the ecclesiastical embodiment of the bumper sticker, “He’s not my President.”

Strong stuff. I'm with Hopkins on the issue of inclusion, but the line in bold above (which is of course my emphasis) is a bit over-the-top. I suppose I like the idea of alternative oversight, perhaps only because it falls short of what both blocs in the church really want.

Wheaton, the acme of American evangelical colleges, has ended its ban on dancing. Restrictions on social dancing are easy targets for ridicule; they seem hopelessly outdated and puritanical. (One thinks of the story line of Footloose, which stands out as a particularly egregious example of Hollywood's failure to understand conservative Christians; it's also an important milestone in the development of Kevin Bacon as an actor...)

Wheaton draws a nice distinction between their Statement of Faith (which is timeless, unaffected by culture) and their Community Covenant (which ought to reflect social progress and change). The new rule on dancing now states:

On-campus dances will take place only with official College sponsorship. All members of the Wheaton College community will take care to avoid any entertainment or behavior, on or off campus, which may be immodest, sinfully erotic, or harmfully violent.

Liberal Christians will still find the covenant quite restrictive; very conservative Christians will bemoan what they might see as a capitulation to secular culture. But I like the spirit in which Wheaton has taken this small but important step:

Wheaton today exists in a different world from 1900, or even 1950. In the light of our present and future environment, the leadership of Wheaton College must constantly ask, What does it mean for Wheaton College to serve Christ faithfully in the changing realities of the twenty-first century? The answer is this: Our wisest course, precisely because it is so fully biblical, is to draw the College’s boundaries where and how the Scriptures draw them, and then stand there come what may. The result? As of the adoption of this Covenant, Wheaton’s boundaries are now based firmly on "sincerely held religious beliefs." Here we can and will take our stand.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Judge Roy Moore has been removed from office in Alabama; story here. The War Liberal blog has far more coverage.

And Wesley Clark continues to call himself a Democrat despite his support for the flag desecration amendment to the constitution. A particularly bad example of political pandering.

That's it for today, folks.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

And one more link for the morning, a story about the liberal Cuban-American bishop of Southeast Florida, Leo Frade. About his vote to confirm Gene Robinson, the article says:

When he explains his position, he reminds people that the church has been wrong before, many times. "I cannot respond to the issue of same-gender attraction using a mind of the 15th century," he says. "I know that the Earth was not flat, and I know that Galileo was right, and the church was wrong."

My conservative friends will point out that Galileo did not contradict Scripture, and homosexuality does. But let us, dear friends, not forget how this bible verse was used as a proof text for a geocentric universe not so long ago...
And then, thanks to Kendall Harmon, we have this story:

A leisurely Sunday drive came to an abrupt halt for a couple in southern Norway over the weekend, when a fully grown moose suddenly landed on the roof of their car.


Good news from Britain: health regulators have banned the use of sex-selection procedures by those seeking fertility treatment. Sex-selection will still be allowed on "compelling medical grounds", which is potentially troubling.

And here's a good article from Youth Worker magazine on "post-modern theology and youth". I liked this bit:


Do our modern theological statements express the truth of Scripture or are they more a reflection of a particular time and culture? Do our family values and moral imperatives actually come from the Bible or from our modern western culture based on Constantinian Christendom? Are we reducing the truth of the Bible to human constructs by creating doctrines, creeds, and statements and absolutizing them?

In postmodern times, the established structures of modernity are crumbling all around us. Christians are once again becoming the persecuted minority, the radical alternative. Some people mourn these changes, this loss of influence; and they fight, quite literally, to preserve the status quo. But Christianity was never meant to be the religion of the powerful; it's a faith for those on the margins, for the weak and despised.

Young people are increasingly seeing themselves as a marginalized people and victims of the modern establishment. Teens want to experience truth; they want to see faith in action.

Christian theology in a postmodern time needs to be radical, dynamic, and relational. Radical theology doesn't necessarily follow the mainstream; it listens to the voices from the margins, just as Jesus did. It's not afraid to be heretical in the sense of a religious opinion that differs from the accepted dogma of the establishment.


The emphasis is mine. It is Wednesday today, that means youth night at All Saints. Wearing both my Anabaptist and Episcopalian hats, I will pray for the guidance that I might be radical, dynamic and relational with my kids this evening.


Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Here is a link to a picture of my mother and me (we're the two on the left) at her retirement dinner last May; here is another one of me pontificating away happily. I know, you're all gripped.
I'm a bit late to this story: the bishop of Chester (England) is now under investigation by the police for suggesting that gays and lesbians seek psychiatric help in order to "reorientate" themselves. The subject of "reparative therapy" for gays and lesbians remains a controversial one, of course, in this country as well. (The BBC has a nice "backgrounder" on aversion treatment and its history here.)

I'm with gay neo-con Andrew Sullivan on this one:

A free society will have space for both fundamentalists and homosexuals. An unfree society is one in which either group suffers from legal, criminal or civil restrictions. Our freedom is their freedom, which is why I'm also against hate crimes laws and attempts to coerce the Boy Scouts into doing the right thing by not discriminating against gays. It's also vital for people of good will to understand that civil rights for gay people in no way should affect the rights of others, especially in religious denominations of all kinds, to loathe, disdain, pity or malign homosexuality. These people couldn't be more wrong, but in a free society, you have the right to be wrong. That goes for religious groups hiring gays as well, in my book. They shouldn't have to. There has to be space for all of us.

I've known folks who have tried reparative therapy and/or Christian-based recovery ministries for gays and lesbians. Most have eventually accepted that their homosexuality is innate, and have rejected the conversion approach. But I can think of two people whom I have known well who have been radically transformed by such efforts. They really seem (to be the best of my knowledge) to be "liberated" from what they regarded as a sickness.

My own instincts sometimes tell me that these organizations do a great deal of harm; I also sometimes think they may offer tremendous hope. I know this will sound like a typical wussy conclusion for Hugo, but I think we have to be open to the possibility of multiple (pluriform) truths on the subject of the legitimacy and desirability of "reorientation". In the meantime, we need to have vigorous and free dialogue on the subject in the spiritual and secular marketplace.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Dennis Kucinich, my candidate for president, is single. He would like a true running mate, and a website in New Hampshire is running a contest to find him a wife. Candidates are invited to submit photos and a resume to the site, with the winners promised a free trip to New Hampshire for dinner with the diminutive progressive from Ohio.

The genesis of this crusade was this excerpt from a speech Dennis gave last Wednesday:

"As a bachelor, I get a chance to fantasize about my first lady. And you know maybe Fox will want to sponsor it as a national contest or something. But in any event I would want definitely want someone who would not just be there by my side, but be a working partner because I think we're in a day and age when partnerships are imperative to making anything happening in the world. And I certainly want a dynamic, out-spoken woman who was fearless in her desire for peace in the world and for universal single-payer health care and a full employment economy. If you are out there call me."

I am sure many wonderful women from the blogosphere will participate, and I for one will be following the process devotedly.
Here is another issue where the Christian left tends to break with secular progressives: "Charitable Choice." Jim Wallis of Sojourners laments this week the failure of both Democrats and Republicans to move the CARE Act (Charity Aid, Recovery and Empowerment Act) forward. Democrats have been reluctant to embrace the use of federal funds for faith-based organizations, worrying (as they do incessantly) about blurring the line between church and state. Republicans often seem to motivated more by a desire to shift the burden of caring for the poor entirely away from government rather than by genuine compassion.

For more about the issue of charitable choice and faith-based solutions to poverty, check out the website of Call to Renewal.

The religious left has been increasingly critical of the "disconnect" between the Administration's economic policies and its support for the CARE Act; Jim Wallis and other pastors wrote recently: ..."the lack of a consistent, coherent, and integrated domestic policy that benefits low-income people makes our continued support for your faith-based initiative increasingly untenable."

But the fact that the Bush Administration's economic program has been lamentable does not mean that charitable choice does not remain an excellent idea. The CARE Act could bring about tremendous good... if both parties allow it to move forward.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

A very busy Sunday, with a Mennonite morning followed by an Episcopalian afternoon. In the confirmation class I co-teach, we made our way through the 10 Commandments, and I was heartened by the thoughtfulness of some of the questions the kids asked. As typical post-modern youth, they do worship at the altar of relativism -- the very first commandment made them more uneasy than any that followed!

My gal and I went to see the film "Elephant" last night, the Gus Van Sant flick loosely based on the 1999 Columbine school shootings. It was tedious, opaque, and profoundly offensive (not easy to pull off, all at the same time). I remember being devastated by the Columbine story four and a half years ago, and I hoped that this fictionalized treatment would help me to see some aspect of the tragedy that I had not yet seen. Instead, the film seemed resolutely committed to denying the viewer the opportunity to connect with the characters, to empathize and grieve. I understand that Van Sant was experimenting with technique by dispensing with a traditional narrative. But to do so with a story so close to so many of our hearts was offensive and painful. I cannot recall the last time I reacted so viscerally against a film, but thought I would get that blast off my chest before heading off to bed.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

A few readers have quietly noted that Richard Shimpfky, Bishop of El Camino Real, is genuinely not well. Apparently his diocese is indeed in an uproar, and his own medical condition may explain his bizarre letter to clergy of yesterday. If that is the case, than I am sorry I even drew attention to it in my post of yesterday afternoon. If anyone has any more info, please share.

Brief notes: Here is a cause I can get behind -- restoring voting rights for felons on parole. Nearly 5 million Americans who have paid their debt to society are still denied the right to vote, often decades after their crimes were committed. Only Maine and Vermont allow those with felony convictions to cast ballots. Given that it was only by grace or luck that I never was arrested or convicted for my innumerable "youthful indiscretions", I am tremendously sympathetic to the plight of these folks.

Tomorrow, England meets Wales in the quarterfinals of the rugby world cup. As I used to say to my Welsh-speaking brother, "Viva Cymru"!

And the hated Miami Hurricanes lost again today. Gaudete!
Nancy Pelosi is outraged that the photo of President Bush signing this week's bill outlawing partial-birth abortion shows W. surrounded by male lawmakers.

"It's a group of men celebrating depriving women of a medical procedure that could save their health and their lives, and . . . because of the celebratory nature . . . it was . . . a slap in the face to women across America,'' the Democratic leader told reporters in her Capitol offices in a session to mark the first anniversary of her election as the first female leader of a party's caucus in Congress.

Pelosi, who describes herself as a devout Catholic, has five children and five grandchildren and has long been a vigorous pro-abortion rights voice in the House.


I don't know who arranged the photo. But there are plenty of strong, pro-life women in Congress who supported the partial-birth abortion ban. Check out the Susan B. Anthony List and its list of pro-life women in Congress. I note, with mild annoyance, that one woman whom I admire greatly was left off the list. Marcy Kaptur, Democrat of Ohio and friend to Dennis Kucinich, is a strong pro-life liberal. She voted for the partial-birth ban, and also supported the Unborn Victims of Violence Act in 2001.

She's as liberal as they come on economic issues and on the war in Iraq. She is a proud member of the House's Progressive Caucus, the most liberal group in the Congress. She and Kucinich, who share neighboring districts and are devoutly Catholic and were once the only two pro-life progressives in the House. And now, with Dennis undergoing a magical conversion to pro-choice orthodoxy, Marcy Kaptur stands alone: a proud left-wing pro-life Catholic. Maybe I will just send her a check in 2004... the one I would otherwise have sent to Barbara Boxer!

Friday, November 07, 2003

I grew up on the Monterey Peninsula, and the first church I ever went to was All Saints, Carmel. The current bishop of my home diocese, El Camino Real, is Richard Shimpfky. Bishop Richard voted in favor of Gene Robinson's elevation to the episcopate, but what is really noteworthy is this brief letter he posted on his diocesan website today. I quote it in full because it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, but a quick perusal of the site revealed it to be (apparently) the bishop's own thoughts:

The ordination of the next bishop of New Hampshire is accomplished. I would have loved to be among the great throng. This ordination is landmark for reasons that go beyond the rhetoric of the last months; it is important, I think, for our whole understanding of what being a “real man” is all about.

Centuries ago we thought in feminine terms. Then came René Des-Cartes (and his friends in the English tradition, Locke and Bacon). Feminine was out (mother earth, mother church, alma mater, etc.) in favor of a macho masculinity that has dominated the time since.

The Stonewall massacre, from which the gay movement has emerged, was the last ditch stand of the Cartesians against men who are not quite men. I remember Nikos Kazantzakis’ The Last Temptation of Christ as bellwether of the coming shift; a lament of the loss of the ideal of pure masculinity. No wonder people are so upset!


That's it. Verbatim. I realize I a may be a bear of very little brain, so perhaps someone wiser than myself can make sense of this pastoral letter. Help?

And who knew that the Stonewall riot (in which no one died or was seriously hurt) was a "massacre"? Who knew this was all about Descartes and Kazantzakis? Can someone please find out what in the name of all the angels and the saints the Very Rev. Richard was thinking? Or his webmaster?

IntegrityUSA (the organization for GLBTQ Episcopalians) opens its national conference tonight in San Diego, at St Paul's Cathedral. What is interesting about this site for Integrity's conference is that the bishop of San Diego, Gethin Hughes, is a fairly staunch conservative who adamantly opposed Gene Robinson's election and consecration. Back in August, Hughes wrote

I was strongly opposed to the election of a candidate who left his wife and children because of his attraction to another man. In simple terms the bishop-elect of New Hampshire cannot be the “wholesome example” referred to in the ordination service.

And he also said:

The Diocese of San Diego will continue to be an integral part of the Episcopal Church, though sadly we will lose many faithful individuals from our lives. I will continue my policy of refusing to ordain any candidates for the ministry who are sexually active outside of marriage, whether they are homosexual or heterosexual. I will continue to refuse to authorize any requests by the clergy of this diocese to bless same-sex unions, because the Anglican Communion is no where near clearly understanding what such a blessing would mean. At the same time I will call upon every member of this diocesan family to be welcoming and respectful to our gay and lesbian fellow Christians who are part of our congregational life.

That last sentence gives a clue, perhaps, as to why IntegrityUSA is meeting in Hughes's diocese rather than the diocese of a more liberal bishop. Gethin Hughes will retire soon; a search is already under way for his successor. But he has my tremendous admiration, because he is willing to welcome Integrity into his diocese and cathedral while simultaneously hewing to a traditional line on human sexuality. It's a tough balance, one that has caused conservatives and progressives alike to heap calumny upon him. But he is my kind of guy, willing to live in prayerful tension and in ambiguity.


The splendid Gutless Pacifist became a father this week; picture of adorable new daughter available on his blog. Say hello and catch up with what his fine guest bloggers have been up to.
Here is a nice overhead shot of the exact moment of Gene Robinson's consecration. It's a marvelous picture.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

As part of my work in gender issues, I traveled to Washington D.C. in January 2002 to participate in a three-day long training session and workshop provided by an organization called Men Can Stop Rape. They are truly a marvelous outfit, and I benefitted tremendously from the experience. But I found the whole weekend as exhausting as it was exhilarating, largely because of the excruciating emphasis that was placed on the use of non-offensive language. We spent hour upon hour creating a "safe place" for everyone to share and to be heard. (And after each step towards that safe place was taken, we had to have extensive check-ins about everyone's feelings about this new and important move forward.) By the end of the weekend, I wanted to launch into the most extraordinary profanity-laden tirade.

The reason I bring this up is because I remain on MCSR's mailing list (and I do strongly support their work), and today received their November newsletter. One section of the newsletter is called the "check-in" section, and this month's "check-in" contains this unintentionally hilarious e-mail exchange between a male and a female staffer at MCSR on the subject of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the mystery of his appeal to women.

Here are some excerpts:

Male staffer: It's hard enough to get men to value women's humanity and women's bodies, even when women are speaking out forcefully and angrily about men's violence against women, but when women jump on the bandwagon with men to defend sexism and romanticize sexist behavior, I feel like giving up, giving up both my efforts to raise other men's consciousness and giving up on my own personal struggle to challenge the Arnold in me. I guess my angry question to you came, in part, from an attempt to fight off the helplessness that that article sparked in me. I have other thoughts about why I reacted that way, but let's start there and see where this conversation goes.

Female staffer: I'm glad that you decided to check in with me and explore our conversation a bit further. Beyond initial surprise at your question, I felt a range of emotions. As I'm sure you are aware, my status as MCSR's only female staffer has prompted more than one query placing me in the position of everywoman. But, contrary to a pat "curiosity about the female perspective" interpretation of your emotional outburst, the complex nature of our intra-office relationships commands a look beyond the surface of your more than complex question...

Looking inward, however, I see how my own actions play into this culture of dismissing, accepting, and even romanticizing sexism. I have worked in an environment where men adorned the workplace walls with ads of bikini-clad models selling beer; I have witnessed men using the word bitch, femi-nazi, or some other (not so) cleverly derived sexist moniker in place of fed-up, angry, not-going-to-stand-idly-by-and-take-it-anymore woman; I have been the self-conscious girlfriend of the Playboy subscriber. And, I have remained silent. I chose conciliation over confrontation, and still, to some extent, do. Every day, I downplay my feminism with femininity. While you are one of the first to admit that I'm no shrinking violet, how provocative, really, is a petite blonde in a pink cashmere sweater, high heels, face full of Stila products, and hey, did someone just call her Barbie?? In trying to answer your question, I realize that I'm not just a woman working for the solution, and can only wonder, “Am I part of the problem?”


Male staffer: I'm reeling from your response and feel torn between two reactions. On the one hand, I deeply appreciated your honesty and openness. I was relieved that you took what I said seriously. Rather than getting defensive and dismissive, you used it as an opportunity to reflect on the contradictions in yourself as a woman. Sitting with our own paradoxes is so difficult and shows real strength. It makes me feel like we're really in this struggle against sexism together. On the other hand, I felt unnerved by what you wrote. I immediately got worried that I had hurt you with my "victim-blaming" question and led you down a path of self-criticism and self-doubt. I didn't want you to lose sight of your incredible strengths and wanted to remind you of the many ways that you challenge traditional gender roles just by being bright and ambitious and competent and creative.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH!!

Look, I think the issues they are discussing are important. But the narcissism that these two exhibit with their politically correct emotional vocabulary is, to me , hysterically funny. Or perhaps it is only funny because by God, I write this sort of over-emotive drivel all the bleeping time. Read the whole thing for yourself and let me know.

What we who do gender work lack more than anything else is a desperately needed sense of wicked humor and irony. We are drowning in our saccharine sincerity.
I taught my 1:00 class in a baseball cap, something I rarely do. I spent my noon hour getting soaked in a dunk tank by honor society students, all for the fine cause of raising scholarship money. I do love my job, even when (perhaps especially when) it gives me an opportunity to make a fool of myself in front of these young people whom I love so much.
The Reverend Susan Russell has some interesting responses to conservative critics of Gene Robinson's consecration. Here's a noteworthy bit:

Far from “copping out to the culture” the message the Episcopal Church is incarnating by the actions of General Convention 2003 – consenting to the election of the new Bishop of New Hampshire and recognizing that liturgies blessing same-gender relationships fall within the bounds of our common faith – is one of radical welcome and inclusion: a challenge to the culture which continues to scapegoat and marginalize GLBT people and their relationships. We offer a vision for a community of faith where one’s theological orientation – rather than one’s sexual orientation – is the focus of our energies. We invite all people seeking spiritual community to come and be fed by the holy food and drink of new and unending life – to be filled by the Holy Spirit who calls us to be agents of change and transformation in the world – to experience relationship with the Jesus who invites us all into health and wholeness. It’s not about being “trendy” – it’s about loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind and loving your neighbor as yourself. It’s about making disciples to partner with God in redeeming the creation.

I agree with Susan for the most part. But I note from my own life and experience that one cannot be an "agent of change and transformation" until one has been "transformed" oneself. And last time I checked, Jesus was not just calling us to "health and wholeness" (which sounds like Christian Science to me), he was calling us to self-denial and the cross. Liberals sure tend to dislike the notion of self-denial as applied to sexuality; conservatives frequently are equally hostile to it when it comes to their material comforts...

But who am I to preach self-denial? I'm a divorced, full-size pickup truck-driving, jelly-bean and caffeine addict myself!

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

I liked this story about hormones and flirting. Just the thing to contemplate before I lead Wednesday night youth group and rambunctious teenagers!
Arnold plans to name a conservationist and environmental activist to head the state's Environmental Protection Agency. This is great news for progressives, and is in keeping with Schwarzenegger's surprisingly "green" environmental platform. David Dreier is said to not be gruntled, which I take to be the best news of all. Arnold also plans to tap Bonnie Reiss, a self-described "liberal Democrat" to be a senior advisor.

Hugoboy is comforted and pleased.

Elsewhere, Howard Dean is taking flak for his desire to reach out to Southern whites who fly the Confederate flag. Though I don't have the battle flag on the back of my pickup truck, I'm with Howard on this one. Unlike the Nazi Swastika, which cannot be separated from a legacy of genocide, the Confederate flag does have a variety of shifting meanings, ranging from the openly racist to the benignly nostalgic. It has, for one, always represented populist and agrarian rebellion against urban and economic elites. Dean is right to point out that it is time for Democrats to seek out the votes of disaffected working class Southerners who, time and time again, vote against their own interests in supporting wealthy Republicans.

I'm still a Kucinich man, but not by much.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Because of last Friday's discovery, some have asked how I deal with plagiarism. It varies depending on the egregiousness of the offense. Clever plagiarism (which uses obscure sources unavailable on the Internet) is dealt with more leniently than stupid plagiarism (which might seem a redundant term, but refers to using easily found Internet sources). The student usually, but not always, fails the class. What I find so annoying is that the sort of students who engage in the latter form of plagiarism are assuming that I am too lazy to read their work closely. But I note that plagiarism is, at its core, lying. And look at where liars are placed in this "sin list" -- dead last and thus most vile of all.

I shall go sulfur shopping before handing the papers back on Thursday.
Calling all theological conservatives! Can someone explain to me why (from a Scriptural standpoint) it is perfectly okay for the Episcopal Church USA to consecrate divorced and remarried men as bishops, but not Gene Robinson? (Fifteen current bishops in the Episcopal Church, not including Gene Robinson, are divorced; eleven have remarried without annulments. Among them is Los Angeles's own bishop, my friend Jon Bruno). How are the church's teachings on homosexuality different from the New Testament understanding of divorce? Or that a bishop should have "only one wife"? Can someone make the case that divorced bishops are okay in a way that gay bishops are not?
I am still loyally observing the supermarket strike, though I confess it was a relief to be able to shop at Ralphs this past weekend. Ralphs has seen an upsurge in business since the pickets were withdrawn from their stores alone; the story is here. For those who think the strikers are rejecting reasonable offers, here is a link to an actuarial analysis of what most grocery workers would pay under the proposed agreement with the supermarkets. It is far higher than what the stores have suggested.
Sometimes my dear conservative brothers forget their history. Here is Rob Schenck of the National Clergy Council, condemning the consecration of Gene Robinson and what he sees as the church's capitulation to modernity:

Sadly, it is true that the majority of the bishops in the Episcopal Church have chosen to take their cue from popular culture rather than from the historic tradition of the church," Schenck told CNSNews.com . "And it's the historic tradition of the church that defeated slavery and assisted with giving women an equal place in society. It's always because the church has been different, not the same, as popular culture. Now the church has decided to be the same as popular culture and embrace its moral innovations and adventurism. That is not the role of the church."

I am sure that our friends in the Southern Baptist Convention and the Presbyterian Church in America, not to mention conservative Anglicans, will be quite surprised to learn that it is the "historic tradition" of the church to give women an equal place in society! Indeed, when the Southern Baptists in 2000 decided to move backwards on the subject of women's ordination, they did so because they believed that their mistaken decision to elevate women to ministry in the first place was part of a capitulation to popular culture, exactly the sort of thing that Schenck decries. Sorry, Rob, both scripturally and historically, the issue of women's ordination and homosexuality are more closely linked than you might like to remember.

Part of the problem for the conservative movement is that it is deeply divided on the subject of women's call to ministry. (This is one area where pentecostals -- like the Assemblies of God -- have long been progressives compared to their Reformed counterparts). As long as they have homosexuality to focus on, traditionalists are willing to paper over this particular area of difference. We progressives need to gently and lovingly remind our traditionalist brethren of their own divisions on the subject of women, and in the nicest possible way, be willing to exploit those differences when necessary.

Monday, November 03, 2003

A couple of quick random notes: I wish to note that today is the first day of the semester cold enough for me to wear a turtleneck. I mark the changing of the seasons by my wardrobe (hardly unusual), and I always look forward to the coming of turtleneck weather.

My women's studies students (who for the most part, despite Friday's despair, are not plagiarizers) are still digesting my evolving thesis that much of modern feminism is rooted in women's profound disappointment in men. Nota bene -- I did not say all of modern feminism, just much of it...

And I note, as a marathoner, that P. Diddy debuted at the New York City Marathon yesterday in a time of 4:14:52. I salute his effort, and hope that it will inspire more young men of color to run. I often run through the streets of northeast Pasadena (a largely non-white area) and am often disheartened at how few young men I see out there jogging along. When I run through the "whiter" neighborhoods of town, I see far more joggers, of both sexes, but their skin is overwhelmingly white.
Sad news you won't read many other places: Mike Yaconelli, whose Youth Specialities was the godsend of youth ministers and volunteers from the Episcopalians to the Assemblies of God, died this past week in a car accident.

Here's an article Yaconelli wrote on faith that is quite timely for those of us caught up in the "gay question" and the church. I like this bit a lot:

I am starting to realize that I have not expected my faith to make a difference in my relationships, I have expected my faith to make my relationships easy. I haven’t wanted my faith to make me face the issues in my life, I have wanted my faith to help me avoid the issues. I didn’t ask my faith to give me the courage to do what needed to be done, I asked my faith to do what needed to be done for me. I wasn’t asking for courage to do the difficult, I asked, instead, for the removal of the difficult. I didn’t want my faith to make a difference, I wanted it to remove the need for a faith that made a difference. I didn’t want my faith to give me clarity in the midst of a difficult situation, I wanted my friend’s faith to give him the clarity he needed to quit making the situation difficult for me. I didn’t want everything to work together for good, I wanted everything to be fixed. I wanted faith to change everything but me. I wanted faith to change my circumstances quickly, without any discomfort or pain.

As I like to say when I have nothing else to say to indicate my approval, "bingo!" Mike Yaconelli, who was really little more than a name to me, was evidently a gift and a treasure to the church and to those of us who love to work with teenagers in all their messy glory. Requiescat in pace.
I've gotten some nice traffic from Religious Liberal Blog; I return the compliments.

One reasonably objective account of yesterday's consecration of Gene Robinson comes from a surprising source, the conservative gadfly David Virtue. (Can a name be a malapropism?) Another account, from a far happier perspective, is that of Susan Russell (president of IntegrityUSA, the glbtq organization within the Episcopal Church. Here is Susan's summation:

In the end they can argue scripture, tradition, polity and biology all they want but when it really comes down to it it’s not about theology or even sexuality – it’s about power. And it’s about time for us to get on with the work we have ahead of us and step away from the arguments which have surrounded us. The joy of yesterday’s celebration will linger for many days to come and the gift of Gene’s episcopate will bless this church for many years to come. The work immediately in front of us is to “catch the wave” of the attention the Episcopal Church has received and reach out to those for whom a church where there are no outcasts is good news – who long for the spiritual community we offer – who will find a home here in “this inn where all may be joyfully received.”

Last word, for now, on this subject comes from the Archbishop of Canterbury. He wrote yesterday:

"It is clear that those who have consecrated Gene Robinson have acted in good faith on their understanding of what the constitution of the American church permits. But the effects of this upon the ministry and witness of the overwhelming majority of Anglicans particularly in the non-western world have to be confronted with honesty."

Hurrah for Rowan Williams. In two graceful and oblique sentences, he honored all sides on the issue. Forgive me a moment of evangelical enthusiasm: I do believe that God has chosen Rowan Williams in this remarkable time to lead the Anglican Communion through that "honest confrontation"! My prayers this morning are thus with him, with Gene Robinson, with those who celebrate and with those who mourn, and with the whole body of Christ.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Gene Robinson will be consecrated Bishop of New Hampshire tomorrow. A variety of protesters will be present, including the American Anglican Council, which has issued this press release on its plans. During the consecration service, objections will be formally raised before a group of traditionalists walk out to attend an alternative service.

Gene Robinson has compared his situation, with some accuracy, to that of Prince Charles, the future head of the Church of England. The story is here, in the Telegraph.

The "house theologian" of traditionalist Episcopalians is Kendall Harmon, whose blog can be found here; he has a nice collection of essays and links that represent his side well.

From the affirming side of the aisle, here is an article by a Stephanie Sellers, a divinity student. She writes:

Sunday may herald the sad deepening of rifts within our Communion. It will also mark our commissioning to go forth into the world, empowered by the Spirit to proclaim and witness to the wideness of God's mercy. And that's a good thing.

In preparation for that celebration, I'll be meditating with this homemade collect. I invite you to join me:

Holy God, as you delivered your people Israel from bondage and gave your only son Jesus Christ for the life of the world; grant us a fresh outpouring of your liberating, life-giving Spirit as we celebrate the nearness of your reign in the consecration of our brother, your child, Gene Robinson, as a bishop in Christ's one, holy, catholic and apostolic church; in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.


I will pray that collect, even as I wince at the typically liberal language ("liberating, life-giving spirit".) But I will also pray fervently for those who will not be rejoicing tomorrow. No, I won't be so arrogant as to pray for them to "come over" to our side. I will simply, as evangelicals like to say, "lift them up before the throne". I don't know which side, if either, my Lord Jesus is on. If there is one thing we can all agree on, however, it is that this is a momentous time.

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