Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Doll Story That Will Break Your Heart

Please click on or paste this this link into your browser to see a news story about a documentary a young woman named Kiri Davis has produced. It is a stunning and heartbreaking piece. (There is a short commercial for fireplaces before the news story starts. Be patient.)

or click on this link

for the entire documentary, which is about eight minutes long. And if you want to buy a copy, click on this link:

We must quit wasting time worrying about whether somewhere, somehow, a gay or lesbian person might be falling in love, getting married, having children, or getting ordained. Talk about a weapon of mass distraction.
We need to get serious about combating the sin of racism, in our homes, in our churches, in our schools, at our work, in ourselves. We need to gest serious about the sin of sexism, in our homes, in our churches, in our schools, at our work, in ourselves.
All oppressions are linked -- rascim, sexism, heterosexism. Until we understand that, we will make little or no progress in living into our Baptismal vows.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Playing Tag with Seven Things

I was tagged by Susan Russell ( to consider the challenge issued by Brother Causticus to play "Seven Things." Well, I never turn away from a challenge, especially from Susan, so I stopped in the middle of putting Christmas decorations away -- at this rate I may not get them packed away until Valentine's Day -- to think about the following questions. Answers below ... and now Michael Hopkins at Tag! You're it!

1. Name a book that you want to share so much that you keep giving away copies:
The Color Purple by Alice Walker. Celie’s journey through abuse to wholeness, her courageous willingness to risk love in a hostile world, is a story every woman should read. And Celie and Shug’s discussion about God – what God looks like, who God is [God ain’t a he or she, but an It] – is one of the most powerful discussions in literature about a loving God:
Listen, God love everything you love—and a mess of stuff you don’t. But more than anything else, God love admiration.
You saying God vain, I ast.
Naw, she say. Not vain, just wanting to share a good thing. I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.
What do it do when it pissed off? I ast.
Oh, it make something else. People think pleasing God is all God care about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.
Yeah? I say.
Yeah, she say. It always making little surprises and springing them on us when we least expect.
You mean it want to be loved, just like the bible say.
Yes, Celie, she say. Everything want to be loved. Us sing and dance, make faces and give flower bouquets, trying to be loved. You ever notice that trees do everything to git attention we do, except walk?

2. Name a piece of music that changed the way you listen to music:
Beethovan’s Ninth Symphony (Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125). When I was growing up in a tiny West Texas town there were no opportunities to hear a live symphony. My dad had played in a jazz band at Notre Dame and he listened to his jazz records almost every evening. My mother liked classical music, but she was so busy she rarely had time to sit down, much less listen to records. But our parents were determined that our lives not be bounded by small town Texas, so they traveled with us every summer to some city. Once, in New York City, they took us to the symphony to hear “The Ninth.” I was 7 or 8 years old. I was stunned by the power and beauty of the music that filled every nook and cranny of the huge hall. The sound of the massed voices in the fourth movment (Ode to Joy) left me agape. Here was music on a scale I could never have imagined – there were more people on stage than there were in our entire town. My brain was blown open by the beauty pouring into my ears. My whole idea of “music” was redefined and I suddenly caught of glimpse of why the church teaches that we are created in the image of God. Surely, music like this is a small echo of God’s voice.
3. Name a film you can watch again and again without fatigue:
To Kill a Mockingbird. A tour de force by Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. The realities of small-town southern life are captured perfectly. See #6.
4. Name a performer for whom you suspend all disbelief:
Helen Mirren. Whether she’s playing Queen Elizabeth [I and II], Jane Tennison, or a member of the Women’s Institute producing a calendar, she pulls me totally into the reality being created on the screen.
5. Name a work of art you’d like to live with:
Rembrandt’s Portrait of a Young Jew. I practically live with the painting anyway, because it is part of the permanent collection of the Kimbell Museum in Fort Worth so I can visit it all the time. Admission to the Kimbell is free, as is parking, so it’s easy to drop in. When the museum puts its permanent collection away to make room for a big special exhibition, I actually feel lonely, as if a close friend is gone. But when the painting is on display, I find myself dropping into the museum and walking upstairs to just sit or stand with the painting for a while. Sometimes I stay only a minute, other times I stay much longer. The painting is lovely and dark and, like much of Rembrandt’s work, just a bit mysterious. But for reasons I don’t even try to explain, it makes me feel both peaceful and energized.
6. Name a work of fiction which has penetrated your real life:
Again, To Kill A Mockingbird. Reading this novel allowed me to really “see” the small town in which I grew up – its small graces and tender mercies, its small-minded bigotry and its big-hearted generosities, its moments of loveliness and its potential for real ugliness. Harper Lee’s depiction of the rich lives the children led, mostly below the radar of the adults who loved them, rang true to the experience I had with my brothers when we were growing up in the amazing freedom (and safety) of a small town in the 1950s.
And even though it says seven things, I only got SIX questions from Susan. Hmmm. Have to check this out. OK. Here's the seventh thing:
7. Name a punch line that always makes you laugh:
Next time, stand still!
It's the punch line to a shaggy dog story my father used to tell, about a guy at the Shamrock Hotel in Houston . . .We'll let it go at that. :)

Friday, January 19, 2007

This is Not Rocket Science

My mother is a wise woman. It helped her survive having three children under the age of five. Four years later along came my little brother and she had four of us with which to contend.
When a bigger child was bullying a smaller one, she put a stop to it. There was no tolerance of bullying. When one of us misbehaved, we suffered consequences.
In this, my mother was relying on many of the same principles she had relied on when she was a nursing supervisor of entire floors of large metropolitan hospitals -- one of the most important of which was that she did not tolerate or reward bad behavior.
After all, that’s one of the basic tenets of child rearing – and good leadership in general. You reward good behavior while making clear the consequences of bad behavior. And then you follow through. If the bad behavior continues, you deal with it quickly by meting out the consequences. And you tend to the needs of the child who is behaving, or in the case of adults, the employee who is doing his or her job well.
If you always lavish attention on the one who is misbehaving, well, guess what? He or she will continue or escalate the misbehavior because it’s getting the desire result – attention.
This is a lesson that, until recently, seems to have escaped many of the leaders of The Episcopal Church, and still is escaping the leadership of the Anglican Communion.
There is hope, however, that things are about to change, at least in TEC. Virginia Bishop Peter Lee said in his recent letter:

"Recently, attorneys for the dissidents sent a letter threatening action against me and any other diocesan officials who 'set foot on' or 'trespass' on Episcopal Church property. By contrast, your leadership has not moved to change locks or freeze assets. Rather, once again, we have moved to accommodate these dissidents at the expense of our faithful people." [emphasis added.]

He then went on to outline how he and the diocese are moving to secure the property for the “faithful people.”
Just so did Bonnie Anderson, the president of the House of Deputies, move quickly to point out the misunderstanding of TEC’s polity revealed in the deeply flawed report of the Panel of Reference. Her letter was a straightforward response that should be easily understood. How different this is from the relative silence from 815 that greeted the even more flawed Windsor Report.
So, what’s made the difference?
We have a presiding bishop and a president of the House of Deputies who understand the same thing my mother did.
You don’t reward bad behavior, and you don’t appease bullies.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Power of The Incarnational Experience

Carl Cooper, Bishop of St. David's in the Church of Wales, has written about his change of heart on the issue of ordaining women. The bishop, once a leading opponent of ordaining women, has become an ardent supporter.
What changed his mind? Why, it was that most powerful of conversion experiences – the incarnational experience.
Here’s what Bishop Cooper wrote:
“When the Church in Wales first considered the possibility of ordaining women to the priesthood I was one of the most vocal opponents. For reason of theology and Christian Unity I was convinced that it would be a disastrous decision. I campaigned against it and addressed the Church's Governing Body in April 1994 when the 'No' vote carried the day, much to the disappointment and annoyance of many, including some of my own parishioners.
“. . . whether one considers it a U-turn or a conversion, I came to change my mind on the issue of women in the priesthood. Changing one's opinion is never an easy decision for any person in public life. People will always suspect one's motives and question one's agenda. Ultimately, integrity can only be demonstrated by consistency of behaviour and character and I leave that judgement to others.
“Why did I change my mind? There are 3 reasons: 1) My own Church decided to ordain women to the priesthood. Either members of the Church in Wales believe that our Church is competent to discern God’s will for us, or it isn't. Even those who take part in a debate by opposing the proposal are part of the ultimate decision. We must all own it, support it and rejoice in it. 2) I came to see the inconsistencies in the theological standpoint I had espoused and proclaimed. However, no theological standpoint is ever perfect and without flaw. 3) The 'No' vote in 1994 brought home to me the pain and anguish we were causing to our sisters in Christ. I could no longer justify denying the validity of their calling.
“Ever since the ordination of the first women priests in 1997 it has been my privilege to minister with a number of close, female colleagues. The last 10 years have demonstrated that our Church has been enriched, blessed and made more whole by women's priestly ministry. It now feels as if the Church of the past was incomplete. [Emphasis added] I am looking forward to the honour of presiding at the Eucharist this coming Saturday in St Davids Cathedral (13th January), together with my women colleagues, to celebrate the historic decision taken a decade ago and all that it has achieved. . .”
And there you have it. It was the experience of working and worshipping with priests who are women that ultimately opened Bishop Cooper’s heart enough for him to re-examine his position.
The power of the incarnational experience is the reason Bp. Jack Iker is so desperate to keep priests who are women out of this diocese. Despite his references to what the Eames Report called a process of reception, Bp. Iker is not interested in the least in giving people in this diocese opportunities to actually meet, talk with, and most importantly, worship with a priest who is a woman.
It’s also why Peter Akinola is so terrified of actually meeting – heck, even shaking hands with – any gay men or lesbian women. It’s the power of that encounter they fear as much as the actual human beings involved. It’s so much easier if one can forget there are actual human beings involved.
But the Holy Spirit is not so easily corralled. She is like the Texas wind, blowing where she pleases, drifting in through the tiniest openings to breathe on us and change our hearts. Some of us have been working for years now to make as many of those openings as we can.
In 1991, Lauren Gough, a priest and a daughter of Fort Worth, returned to visit her family. Several of us invited her celebrate at the Marty Leonard Chapel, a non-denominational chapel in Fort Worth. She did so, with a full house of worshippers, and the local newspaper wrote a story about it. My husband and I were awakened the next morning by a phone call from a woman outraged that we would so “insult” our bishop – Clarence Pope, at the time. Other abusive calls followed.
In 1995, the Episcopal Women’s Caucus held its national gathering in Fort Worth. Not one Episcopal Church here had the courage to allow the Caucus to use their sanctuary for the meeting’s closing Eucharist – with priests who are women celebrating, of course – so Rabbi Ralph Mecklenburger invited us to use the sanctuary of Temple Beth El.
The Eucharist was open to all and many people from Fort Worth came, most of who had never seen a woman at the altar as priest. Cynthia Black and Terry Cairo concelebrated.
Terry lived in Fort Worth, but was not allowed to function as a priest by Bishop Clarence Pope, although he did offer to let her function as a deacon. Pope would not accept her letters dimissory because he did not accept her priestly orders as valid, because she was a woman.
[An aside to illustrate why what is happening in this diocese is a sin: Terry often celebrated at house masses with local Episcopalians who were hungry to see a woman at the altar. Her young daughter, who was about 3 when they moved here, was a little warrior for her mother. But after three years of living in Fort Worth, that changed. One time when she was tired and cranky and when Terry told her quiet down because we were about to begin a Eucharist, she said, “NO. You can’t. You can’t be a priest because you’re a woman.” We all were shocked into silence, and then into heartbreak.]
For many people – women and men alike -- at the Caucus Eucharist in the Temple that day in Fort Worth, seeing Cynthia and Terry at the altar was a transformative experience. For some, it was a shock to see how normal it was. Given all they had heard and been told by the many of the diocesan clergy – many of whom insist on calling priests who are women “priestesses” -- they had expected something strange and exotic.
For others, the most compelling reaction was one of completeness, a sense of rightness about the image of women at the altar. And for others, it was the first time they had felt really included in the Body of Christ.
Over the years, women have celebrated from time to time in Fort Worth, usually at Trinity Church in Fort Worth, St. Gregory’s in Mansfield, or St. Martin’s in the Field in Keller/Southlake. But the rector of St. Gregory’s who would invite women to celebrate has since moved on, so we are reduced to only two parishes with the courage to do so.
In 2002, the Rev. Barbara Schlachter came to Fort Worth for 59 days as part of the Caucus’ Angel Project, which allowed many people here enough time to build a relationship with her. She even attended our diocesan convention.
All of these events were in spite of our bishops, and almost all were arranged by lay people.
The result of all of these incarnational experiences is that there is a strong and growing number of people here who not only support the ordination of women, but who want to experience it on a regular basis. That’s why Bp. Iker fears and will not allow a real process of reception to happen here.
Bishop Cooper of Wales concludes by saying:
“What of the future? Despite the decision to ordain women priests, we still have some way to go before we can claim to be a fully representative Church. There are now women in very senior parochial posts. We have women serving as Cathedral Canons and Area Deans. However, the Church in Wales has yet to appoint a woman Archdeacon or Cathedral Dean, and it still prevents women from becoming bishops. Later this year we will begin the process of deciding whether or not to allow women to be bishops. I am convinced that this will happen, hopefully sooner rather than later. It will have my unreserved support.”
Bishop Iker does not believe women can be bishops, of course. But he is always quick to assure his female colleagues in the House of Bishops and the priests who are women in the Network that his rejection of their orders is “nothing personal.”
But of course, it is personal. Bishop Clarence Pope illustrated how personal when he dramatically left the Episcopal Church for the Church in Rome. He soon came quietly back, telling people in Fort Worth he had to return because Rome would not recognize the validity of his orders and that just too painful for him to endure. The irony was lost on him.
Still, I rejoice for the Church of Wales, and I pray daily that a similar change of heart may happen here. But I fear it will take a Texas tornado-sized gale by Holy Spirit to break through the hardened hearts, fearful souls, and closed minds of the bishop and nearly all the clergy here.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

It's All About Gender

“How are you?”
I’ve been asked that a lot in the last 24 hours -- kindly by loving friends – and not so kindly by some not-so-loving, but happily gloating, people.
Here’s how I am: I feel like I’ve been crawling across a desert for the last 15 years only to look up and see that about 900 more miles of desert have been shoved in front of me.
The Panel of Reference’s reply to the Diocese of Fort Worth’s appeal reveals an amazingly arrogant lack of respect for the polity of The Episcopal Church. It is up to General Convention, not the panel or the Archbishop of Canterbury, to decide whether our canons are ambiguous or not.
Moreover, the report reveals an appalling lack of respect for our Presiding Bishop by encouraging people like Bishop Jack Iker to dismiss her as a priest, bishop, and Primate because of her gender.
And make no mistake. This is about all gender. Katharine Jefferts Schori holds almost identical positions as did Frank Griswold and Edmond Browning on the ordination of women and the full inclusion of LGBT people in the church. Yet Bp. Iker managed to remain in communion, however impaired, with both of them.
I admit if I had had less of my heart involved in this, I would have been better prepared. After all, look at the members of the Panel of Reference: of the 13 members, 11 are men and two are women. There are no ordained women on the panel. Eight members are from the Global South. Five are from the North Atlantic community, none of which are women.
So I have no excuse for being surprised at the panel’s paternalistic dismissal of women’s priestly ministries. But I remain appalled at their cavalier treatment of people’s spiritual lives and their disregard for the long-term effects of their report.
Once again, we are faced with a document that assumes that bishops are the whole of the church, but this time the document also makes it clear that bishops who are male are more important than bishops who are female, and furthermore, that sensibilities of male bishops must be tended to with great care.
The result is that the panel’s report enables the continuation and escalation of the abuse of those in the minority here in this diocese. The panel made no attempt to explore the realities on the ground.
Here are the realities of “the Dallas Plan”:
Women in the Diocese of Fort Worth who feel called to the priesthood are required to meet several requirements by Bp. Iker, such as getting a letter signed by their rector, writing a spiritual biography, etc. If they produce these to his satisfaction, then they are required to meet with him along with their rector.
However, you must remember that most rectors here are in mental lock step with Bishop Iker – that’s how they got to be rectors. Remember also that the women are meeting with a bishop who holds the theological position that women are not “proper matter” for ordination because they are female. That’s a high hurdle to overcome.
In the years Bp. Iker has been doing this, only three, maybe four women have managed it. Bp. Iker was consecrated in 1993. Does anyone really believe that in all these years, only four women in this entire diocese –which stretches across 21 North Texas counties and has more than 50 churches or missions in 27 cities or towns -- have felt called to ordination to the priesthood? Granted, while we are geographically big, we are small in numbers. There are at best maybe 16,000 members of the diocese. Our growth rate is embarrassingly small in proportion to the rapid growth rate of our area. Still. That’s a lot of people from which to have only four women feel called to the priesthood.
There is, of course, no guarantee that any woman will get by Bp. Iker’s screening to even begin the process in Dallas. But if they manage that, then they will have to go through all the steps required by the Dallas bishop.
Again, before people start hyperventilating, let me emphasize that I do know, of course, that there is no guarantee for anyone trying to enter the ordination process. Still, it seems wrong that women in Fort Worth have to go through two screening processes to even get a chance to begin the ordination process.
It also is clear – and I know this from personal testimonies – that this plan puts in place barriers that very effectively discourage most women from even beginning this process. First, most do not have supportive rectors. Secondly, even supportive rectors are unwilling to risk alienating the bishop by supporting a woman for ordination. Third, even if she finds a rector brave enough to back her, the woman still has to get past Iker’s screening. Then, if she does that, she is faced with the expense and personal dislocation of having to travel to Dallas (a 300-mile round trip from Burkburnett), or move there.
Now, let’s talk about a parish that might want to call a priest who is a woman as rector. If this did happen, the priest would be canonically resident in the Diocese of Dallas. She would be under the authority of the Bishop of Dallas. She would have seat, voice and vote in the Dallas Diocesan Convention. She would have none of those at the Fort Worth Diocesan Convention.
The parish that called her as rector would remain under the authority of Bp. Iker, and its money would remain in the Diocese of Fort Worth. Part of the parish assessment will go to support the Anglican Communion Network, even if the parish and its rector have withdrawn their membership in the Network. This remains the case even if the parish votes to send part of their assessment directly to the national church.
The parish delegates would attend diocesan convention without their rector. Their rector would have no say in decisions made at convention about, say, the parish’s money, or its property.
Their rector would not be welcome at clergy events in Fort Worth, including the Mass of Collegiality. She would not be welcome at clergy retreats. She would be without any local priestly colleagues except, perhaps, those who already have been labeled “troublemakers” by Bp. Iker. She would be completely marginalized.
Bp. Iker loves to point out that no parishes have ever tried to call a priest who is a woman. Well, duh. Of course not.
Why would they want to subject any priest to this second-class status?
Why would they want to subject any priest to this abuse?
Now that the Panel of Reference has put its imprimatur on this second-class priesthood for women, I hope its members will at least own up to what they’ve done. I also hope that, since the panel has put the weight of its voice behind the theological position that women are not “proper matter” for ordination because they are not male, its members are willing to take responsibility when this theological stance is carried to its logical conclusion – that women are not quite the equals of men, and therefore, not quite worthy. This kind of thinking leads to all kinds of terrible abuses of women and girl children.
And are they willing to put their weight behind a “process of reception” for the ordination of non-celibate (or even celibate) LGBT people? If it’s good enough for heterosexual women, why isn’t it good enough for LGBT people?
Additionally, I hope someone will tell me how we’ll know when this “process of reception” is over. If we have to wait until “the whole church” accepts the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate, exactly what does that mean? Until every last misogynist bishop anywhere in the world accepts it? That guarantees it will never happen. For heaven’s sake, the “whole church” of the Anglican Communion hasn’t agreed on anything since it began.
But still, I’d like to know. I’d like to have some idea how long it will be before my daughter and the granddaughters of my friends and their granddaughters will be considered full members of the Body of Christ in this diocese.
How long do we have to wait?