Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Luta Continua (the Struggle Continues)

The Rev. Glen Michaels from Trinity Church, Plattsburg, has provided us with an interesting exchange of emails regarding his inquiry to the Diocese of Albany about a possible candidate for ordination. The candidate happened to be a partnered gay man. Michaels+ was mistakenly copied on an exchange of emails between the Rev. Peter Schofield and The Rev. Robert Haskell (both of the Diocesan Commission on Ministry) relative to his inquiry. The Rev. Michaels has given us permission to post his notes and the related email exchange:

Dr. Bones & Openly Episcopal,
Our AM readers may want to see how the Diocese treats certain of those in this Diocese who believe they may be called to Holy Orders. Canon Haskell's response to Fr. Schofield below was inadvertently sent to me after I had inquired regarding a member of my parish.Canon Haskell's is an interesting approach. Perhaps it can be used by "really historically orthodox" bishops who don't want to ordain women: "We don't discriminate against Christians because they ARE women. No... we discriminate against them because they TEACH that women are called to ordained ministry in the Church. Say... it might even work to exclude people of color and all other heterodox undesirable who hold the radical notion that in Christ there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or canfree, male or female....

(The Rev.) Glen Michaels, Priest Associate,
Trinity Church, Plattsburgh, NY

....................The email exchange alluded to is given below:
March 21, 2008Holy Orders Question
Dear Fr. Schofield,

I have an individual in my parish who I believe has a call to Holy Orders and have met with him to discuss his vocation. He is interested in further discernment. Does the Commission on Ministry have a blanket rule, either by formal rule or de facto, against accepting gay men in civil unions? If not, does the Commission have a working arrangement with another diocese to whom it will refer such persons?
Sincerely,(The Rev.) Glen Michaels

....................March 21, 2008
Re: Holy Orders Question

Peter-We cannot state we have a rule against accepting gay men or women, because the canons of the Episcopal Church say that we cannot discriminate against people in the ordination process based on their sexual orientation.What we can do is discriminate against people who teach that sex outside the marriage of one man and one woman is acceptable. We want people who have historically orthodox views on sex and marriage.However, I would ask you not to reply to Fr. Michaels yet. I think Bishop Love should have a chance to think about how we handle this. I am copying him with this email.


....................April 14, 2008
Bishop Love, Fr. Schofield,

I am disappointed that you have chosen not to respond - other than accidentally (see Canon Haskell's remarks) to my query, made more than 3 weeks ago, about a member of my parish whom I believe has a call to Holy Orders. I sent a follow-up email to Fr. Schofield on March 31. The meeting on Holy Orders is this Saturday. But still no reply. I will communicate Canon Haskell's responses to my parishioner and others.

(The Rev.) Glen Michaels

....................Subsequent to this, Michaels+ did receive a reply from the Bishop. His reply is printed below:

Dear Glen+,

Thank you for your email concerning a parishioner at Trinity Church, Plattsburgh, who is interested in Holy Orders. The policy in the Diocese of Albany is that for a person to be eligible to be considered for the ordination process, he or she must live within the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman, or be celibate and abstinent.If the individual you are counseling is living in a lifestyle other than that mentioned above, he may pursue the ordination process through another diocese that has different standards. It is important for him to realize that the same standards mentioned above apply for clergy seeking to come into the Diocese of Albany from another diocese. We do not have a working arangement with any other diocese to assist individuals outside of the standards mentioned above.

Faithfully Yours in Christ,

....................I leave the last word to The Rev. Glen Michaels:

As much as I disagree with Bishop Love's theological stance on homosexuality, I believe that he does have the right to reject candidates for Holy Orders who hold theological positions which he believes to be outside the bounds of acceptability within the Episcopal Church. However, it is an act of hubris for the Bishop to deny that there are many other bishops in good standing within the Episcopal Church who find such positions acceptable, and would welcome otherwise qualified candidates for ordained ministry. As a pastoral matter, I believe we need to assist such persons in their discernment by connecting them with other Episcopal mentors. Bishop Love's non-response to my suggestion is unfortunately indicative of his pastoral care toward such persons.

Glen Michaels (who prefers to follow Jesus' injunction to call no man father except our Father in Heaven)

The Web Site address is

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Heavy Burden of Charity

"You will find that charity is a heavy burden to carry, heavier than the bowl of soup and the full basket. But you will keep your gentleness and your smile. It is not enough to give bread and soup. This the rich can do. You are the servant of the poor... They are your masters, and the more difficult they will be, the unjust and insulting, the more love you must give them. It is for your love alone that the poor will forgive you the bread you give them."
St. Vincent de Paul

Proud Dad--Women's Political and Legal Status in the Post Revolutionary Era

Excuse me if I engage in some parental hubris, but Olivia has yet another kudo on her resume...
She told me her essay was about how the American Revolution gave rise to discontent among some women (who were also part of the Revolutionary effort) to gain voting rights and equal legal status. Read it all:

Bustin my buttons! You go , girl!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Take Me Home, Country Roads....

The State Capitol building in Charleston

This week I returned to my native West Virginia after an absence of a few years. I hadn't really been back since my Mother's funeral (2002). As I drove over the border from Maryland into West Virginia I had my MP3 Player cued to John Denver's "Country Roads" to mark my passage from the "world" into my state of origin. I stopped to get gas in Flatwoods (the traditional stop between Morgantown and Charleston) and the air was heavy with the scent of spring perfume. It was warm and the the sun shone the whole way. The lady at the cash register called me "honey" and for a moment I paused to take that in, wondering if I should say "I'm not your "honey"!" But this impulse gave rise to the realization that the culture that had formed and nurtured me was unique and wonderful in its own way. Honey was her way to make a connection, to offer friendship,to extend a familiarity and a caring. I sank into it like a pair of old comfortable shoes.

Going home again is always a challenge (for anyone). Some things you can pick up where you last left off, other things you can't. I am a different person than I was when I left in 1988. Some of those differences may put me at odds with some in the Mountain State, while others reconnect me to something primal and unique to my personhood.

Unless you grew up there, you don't understand the fierce pride that lurks in liberal and conservative alike. I am proud to be from here, yet when I claim that heritage outside the state I always get some joke about incest or ignorance or lack of teeth (I remind them that "Deliverance" took place in Georgia!). We can call each other hillbillies, but if you are not from here, you better not call us that! We are Mountaineers. Its the State that gave the world "the right stuff" in Chuck Yeager, gymnast Mary Lou Retton, opera singer Phyllis Curtin, Cyrus Vance, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, "Barnie Fife" (Don Knotts), and Pearl S. Buck. The diversity of that list probably conveys the diversity in the people.

Part of the charm of its people is their fierce Independence and commitment to democratic structures which are best described in the State Motto "Montani Semper Liberi" (Mountaineers Are Always Free). Driving around my home town of St. Albans (where I grew up and where my brother and his family live still), I visited the schools which gave me my basic education. They are in order from primary to secondary and all stand on the same street from Central Elementary, to St. Albans Junior High (which now stands abandoned and shabby looking 1920's edifice with broken windows from vandals, and tall weeds in the front lawn) to the shining new St. Albans High as the last stop on Kanawha Terrace.

My schools:

Central Elementary

St. Alban's Junior High

St. Albans High School

I drove past the Baptist Church where I grew up. I stopped and parked and tried to go inside but found that the door was locked and I had to ring a bell and talk to a box in order to gain entrance. I decided that I didn't want to have to 'splain who I was and what I was doing there to people who didn't know me from Adam. So I snapped a picture and walked back to my car. They might have considered me misguided, not only to have left the American Baptist Church, but to have become an Episcopal priest to boot! I would be far less the priest I am had I not had a great foundation in scripture which was my inheritance for growing up in that Church.The Baptist Church I grew up in...

While going home can be complicated I felt a resonance that I can't really define. Its the feeling that you are in the presence of something eternal to your life---a place, a location of memory and formation that you can't deny or replace. A place called "Remembrance" which has power over you whether you want it or not---a power you can willingly succumb to or resist. For me it was a pleasure to be seduced by it. To let it wrap me in its ancient arms and hold me, if only for a moment, to remind me of who I am.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Edalat Square

Darkness and despair, disguised as piety and righteousness, descend from atop the minarets of the mosques, consuming those who seek hope through the Light of God. On July 19, 2005 in Edalat Square, Iran, Mahmoud Asgari (17) and Ayaz Marhoni (16) were hanged for the crime of lavat (sex between two men in Shari’a or Islamic Law). Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, an estimated 4,000 people have been executed for lavat. Haunted by the circumstances surrounding the execution of Mahmoud and Ayaz, the soul of Edalat Square emerges from the poetic essence of the Sufi mystics—emerging from silence and meditation, melody and prayer. Disturbed by a crisis in Islam, the soul awakens…

Soulbird Music Project was founded in 2007 by New York-based composer and social activist R. Timothy Brady, and Toronto-based film producer and human rights activist Paul Lee. Both Brady and Lee saw the need for art to leave its insular circles, and begin to amplify the causes of organizations that work directly with the struggling and marginalized people around the world. The forums and dialogues that Soulbird facilitates are a significant chance for leading change-agents to brainstorm, to problem-solve, and to figure out ways to support each other, in our fight and struggle for justice.

Edalat Square: Opera in One Act
Music by R. Timothy BradyLibretto by R. Timothy Brady, A. R. Madabushi, and Lou Rodriguez
Copyright © 2007 The Emory Wheel.

When the believer looks with the Light of God, he sees all things:the first and the last, the present and the absent. For how can anything be hidden from the Light of God?
—Jalal al-Din Rumi, Fihi ma fihi (13th c. CE)
For more information:

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Congrats Kansas---My Brackets are officially "toast"

Let Us Now Praise Caustic Christians

[This poem was sent to me by Louie Crew and I liked it very much as I believe its the ministry to which all the Baptised are called and animated]

Let us now praise caustic Christians,
the champions of justice in all generations,
through whom God has restored the flow of mercy.

Some have nailed theses to the church door with prophetic power.
Some have started new universities to challenge the prevailing notions.
Some have overturned tables at the temple, demanding alms for the poor, the sick, and the destitute before we buy organs and stained glass.
Some have worn dresses to be priested for gender justice.
Some have yanked off masks to proclaim their loving gay unions.
Some have demanded of the white authorities, "Let My People Go!"
Some have marched through tear gas and police dogs, defying orders from prelates and judges. Some have destroyed draft files and burned plans for nuclear destruction. Some have organized unions and cooperatives.
Some have fought to redistribute God's bounty justly.

All these won notoriety in their own generation
and were the scandal of their times.
Many have sat in jails rather than to recant
or to say that the earth as we know it
is at the center of the universe.

Others have died.

Many there are who have left behind them no name,
but a legacy of hope restored, conflict resolved,
injustice rectified, lives redeemed.
Their victories are the inheritance of future generations.
Their line will endure for all times.

-- Louie Crew, 1982

Monday, April 07, 2008

Proclaim, Fashion, Love, Serve, Care, Preach, Declare Forgiveness, Bless, Baptize, Celebrate, Nourish, Strengthen, Believe, Called.

As a priest, it will be your task to proclaim by word and deed the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to fashion your life in accordance with its precepts. You are to love and serve the people among whom you work, caring alike for young and old, strong and weak, rich and poor. You are to preach, to declare God’s forgiveness to penitent sinners, to pronounce God’s blessing, to share in the administration of Holy Baptism and in the celebration of the mysteries of Christ’s Body and Blood, and to perform the other ministrations entrusted to you. In all that you do, you are to nourish Christ’s people from the riches of his grace, and strengthen them to glorify God in this life and in the life to come. My brother, do you believe that you are truly called by God and his Church to this priesthood? (Book of Common Prayer Page 531)

The Title of this reflection are the action-words from the “Examination” portion of the Ordination Service as prescribed in the Book Of Common Prayer, just before a Bishop lays hands on a deacon making him or her a priest.

Twenty-three years ago today I was ordained to the priesthood by The Rt. Rev. Robert Poland Atkinson in Trinity Church Parkersburg, West Virginia. I remember well the day. I had borrowed a chasuble made for the Institution of The Rev. Jim Bradley as Rector of St. Paul’s Church New Haven, CT (my seminary field placement) by Gretchen Wolf Pritchard (of Sunday Paper fame). Jim was the preacher and gave a sermon I remember to this day---or at least one part of it. He said that an architect friend had told him that his job was to create space for people to live and grow in. To design a space for human beings to live, learn, work and play in. To create enough boundaries to make people feel safe, and to create enough open and creative space to facilitate people becoming who/what they were called to become. I thought that was an apt description of priesthood at the time and still do.

Today is my ordination anniversary (thank you Louie Crew for reminding me first thing this morning with a kind note) I know that I have become a priest in my soul. It happened slowly almost imperceptibly over time, but I cannot disengage being a priest from my personhood. Its who I have become fully. Not that I have arrived in any sense of the word, but I know who I am in the matter of the daily living out of my life. It enters into every decision (good and bad) that I make. It needles me at times when I am not living up to my understanding of who I am in this matter. "It" causes me to take risks which the world would not require me to take. I know that I use a different language to create and describe my life.

It has sometimes caused me great pain working in the Church. It has given me my greatest joys. Its difficult work at times. And other times I don’t notice the difficulty. After serving on the local Commission on Ministry for six years, and presently serving on the Standing Committee of my diocese, I have seen many ‘aspirants’ for Holy Orders and joined with them in their discernment. There is a quality I look for in the way they speak of their lives. Its often an intuition I have and sometimes hard to express. That quality is perhaps a willingness to not know the answers. To leave some things up to our often mysterious God. To have that dose of mysticism which confounds, confuses, makes us let go of the steering wheel for a few moments and be at the disposal of the Holy. To have a non-anxious understanding and articulation of their own wounds and how those wounds can help them tell stories about a God who loves and heals.

To create the space which makes people feel safe, yet challenges them is often a tall order. In the current American religious environment is maybe extra difficult (see earlier reflection on Pew Trust report “Sea of Vagueness” in this blog). Yet it is truly my vocation now, not something I dabble in during working hours, but possesses me in many different ways during my non-working hours. Its probably what they mean when they speak of “formation”. I can’t imagine being or doing anything else.
[Caveat Emptor --- The phrase in the above charge from the Ordination Rite "..and to perform the other ministrations entrusted to you." will get you every time!]