Monday, December 08, 2014

Let's Play Godball!

If you've read this blog for any length of time at all, you will remember sermons by my friend Bruce Coggin. I've hosted several of his sermons here.

The great good news is that he's now published a book of sermons preached from 2009 to 2014. They were preached as he served several congregations who were displaced from their buildings after the split in our diocese, as well as at a couple of other parishes. They are funny, moving, thoughtful, surprising, and down to earth in the way only a guy with a genius IQ from Bowie, Montague County, Texas, can commit. 

These sermons fed the souls of people who were displaced, hurting, and feeling pretty alone. They helped these folks heal, they empowered them, and they sent them out to offer that healing love to the parts of the world in which they found themselves.

But here's the thing. You don't have to like sermons to love this book. You just have to like great writing and story telling. These are the work of a GREAT story-teller.

Let's Play Godball! Unorthodox Sermons by a Circuit Rider Episcopal Priest from Middle Texas is available at Amazon.

The Foreword is by the Rt. Rev. Sam B. Hulsey, retired bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northwest Texas.

Owanah Anderson, long time senior warden at All Saints’, Wichita Falls, writes in a cover blurb, “Hearing Bruce Coggin preach is an energizing, enlightening experience. His loving use of language – sometimes homespun, sometimes scholarly erudite – awakens one with a jolt: ‘Hey, I knew that! How come I’d not already tooled those words into my own thinking?’ And you carry home the concept and count it as your own treasure.”

Friday, November 07, 2014

Rebooting the Democratic Party in Texas

The Texas Democratic Party needs to reboot. Here is a start at some things I suggest they think about:

Democrats, PLEASE don't act like God doesn't exist. A LOT of people in Texas are people of faith, whether you like it or not. Our faith informs our politics, so don't discount that, and for God's sake, don't patronize or condescend to us.

Texans who live in rural areas aren't idiots. They are conservative the way people who make their livings from the land are conservative. They are pragmatic conservatives, and for the most part, they aren't mean spirited. They are usually whip smart and endlessly inventive -- how do you think they'd manage to wrest out a living in rural Texas otherwise? Respect them and their way of life and they will listen to you.

Keep it positive and keep it real. Don't make promises you can't keep. Acknowledge that most Texans grew up around guns and that MOST of them, like me and others, learned sensible rules about how to act around guns. I personally am not a gun owner, but people I love and respect are. Talk sensibly about this -- don't pander.

Talk about what this state needs. An educated work force is an economic issue. Companies moving here need skilled workers. If our school systems can't provide that, they will move elsewhere.

A healthy work force is an economic issue. Sick people can't work. Access to health care for everyone is an economic driver. Invest in it.

Women being able to control their reproductive lives is an economic issue. There aren't enough men to fill all the jobs so, yes, women will be needed. Safe contraception also helps prevent unwanted pregnancies and thus reduces abortions.

Job safety is an economic issue. Having workers die on the job is not only immoral, but it costs money to retrain a replacement. Talk about these things in ways that the most conservative business person can "get," in ways that relate to their lives.

If our roads and infrastructure are falling apart, goods and services can't be safely delivered. INVESTMENT in these things is an economic driver, not a tax burden.

Poverty, not race, not political party, not even quality of schools, is the greatest driver of the most common problems in our state. It's related to failure to thrive, to failure in school, to the likelihood of ending up in prison. Poor people are NOT the enemy. Pragmatic compassion means investing in ALL Texans, not just those above the poverty line.

Rich people are not the enemy. Treat them with the same respect you do others -- the same respect. Don't pander to them, and don't dismiss them.

Young people are not "the future." Young people are HERE RIGHT NOW. Listen to them. They are drawn to the relevant and the authentic. Don't just go for their energy. Seek out their ideas, their dreams. And here's a thought -- Respect them.

Technology is not the answer to everything. It's a tool that makes life hugely more convenient but it is RELATIONSHIPS that matter in politics, particularly in Texas politics. There aren't six degrees of separation in Texas, as huge as this state is. For many of us, if you diss some of us, you diss us all.

Pay your civic rent. Work at the local level. Get involved in your city halls and your school boards, Then work your way up. But for Pete's sake, get people to run for office at all levels. We can't vote for Democrats if no Democrats are running.

OK. What else?

From comments on Facebook:

From Cindy Wood:  If there is no water, there should be no big companies moving here with lots of employees and more housing needs. Job creation is one thing. However, the drought is so destructive to those in the rural areas you talk about, as well as parks and recreation, that all of Texas loses anytime another 100, 1000, 10,000, 100,000 people start drinking and bathing and watering their grass. There is no water for growth.

From Terry Evans: Find a way to separate issues of fairness and economic good sense from emotional and philosophical prejudice in people's minds. For instance, if we could get regular folks to look at gay marriage and marijuana legalization (at least medical) without filtering the issues through culture-tinted glasses, maybe they would see there's no valid reason to oppose them, and many good reasons to allow them.

From Diane Morrison Snow:  We need to let people know about how many Texans now have health insurance that are very proud to have it . And we need to expand Medicaid and get that money that other states are getting because we turned it down. We got Ann Richards in .. We can get another Democratic governor in! 

From Thomas Baker: News flash: Some Dems are persons of faith or religion who simply believe in separation of church and state. They sometimes get brief from both sides: their faithful church friends and their faithful political friends. Abortion is a real dividing line nowadays with Catholics. If you are a Dem your Catholic friends and the church probably see you somehow as heretic if not demonic because you support candidates from the perceived abortion party. I personally abhor abortion. I see the side that government has power to make some laws and I see that women have rights to make medical decisions regarding their bodies with their doctors. To me abortion was the unspoken elephant in the room in this gubernatorial election.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Looking at TREC's proposal from the other side of schism

You know, I really did want to support TREC.

After all, I live in a diocese that has been flying the airplane while we are building it in the wake of a 2008 schism when our former bishop and much of the diocesan leadership left The Episcopal Church but claimed –and occupied – most of our church property. We have been Reimagining the Church like crazy around here ever since then. So I was eagerly awaiting TREC’s ideas.

Others – Episcopal CafĂ© here and here, Tom Ferguson on his blog Crusty Old Dean here, commentors on the HOB/D list -- have done brilliant jobs of outlining things they like and things that concern them, and I urge you to read them all. I haven’t written a detailed analysis. Instead, I offer a view from the other side of schism, for what it’s worth.

My first reaction was - what business major wrote this and has he or she ever been to church?

My second reaction was - has this person ever been to a General Convention?

My third reaction was - did they really think through the implications of using Lazarus as a starting place?



And my fourth reaction was – did no one learn ANYTHING from what happened in San Joaquin, Quincy, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, and, most recently, South Carolina? 

Full disclosure – I live in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. I am a lay woman coming at this from the perspective of a person who was confined to the margins of my diocese, and thus of General Convention, for more than 20 years. As an outsider I observed the workings of the church in ways that insiders don’t have to. For me, as for people of color, all women, for my LGBT sisters and brothers, learning the ways of those who held power was not a luxury – it was imperative if there was to be any chance of being heard in the councils of the church.

Tipping the scales of the balance of power in favor of those traditionally on the margins was not then and is not now easy in an institution still steeped in clericalism and mesmerized by the color purple. But it is possible, with patience and a willingness to understand how the system works, to learn where the ways into the system are, and where the system offers opportunities for anyone to speak up. All of this is true, by the way, of ANY institutional system, no matter how big or small.

In 2009, I suddenly was thrust into “insider” status. My bishop left The Episcopal Church, we reorganized the diocese, I was elected a deputy and, to my utter amazement, elected to Executive Council on the first ballot at General Convention in Anaheim. My work on the margins had given me enough name recognition to make that possible.

At home my diocese and other reorganized dioceses still are working to rebuild in the wake of a schism that should have been prevented. I see amazing creativity and openness to new ways of being church. I see clergy learning to value the lay people with whom they partner. I see lay people growing into the fullness of their baptisms. I watch feisty small congregations take on ministry projects that would make many large congregations cower. I see displaced congregations growing into being Welcoming Congregations. I watch valiant Episcopalians in congregations that have been locked out of their church homes faithfully creating church from scratch every single Sunday in rented spaces they have access to only on Sunday. I see growth, small, but steady.

Why? Because even though people are tired, they are not afraid. We are not into feeding the fears here.

Of course, I also see families split between those who stayed with The Episcopal Church and those who stayed with Bishop Iker. I see time and way too much money being eaten up in legal fights that Could. Have. Been. Avoided.

The schism in my diocese – as in San Joaquin, Quincy, Pittsburgh, and now South Carolina -- was more than 20 years in the making. The people organizing this move were almost to a man ordained (very few women were involved). They made no secret of their goals - read the Chapman memo and Jim Naughton’s Following the Money. Laity were disempowered. Those who protested were demonized and marginalized, and those who were compliant were used as tools to further the aims of the clergy. Purple reigned, with bishops taking the idea of “princes of the church” into new realms of virtually unchecked power.

The twenty years leading up to the schisms were filled with strife fulminated by these people intent on undermining The Episcopal Church. They wanted a very public fight in which they would be seen standing up for patriarchy, “traditional marriage,” and a vision of The Episcopal Church as it was in the 1950s, when men were men and women – and minorities – knew their place. This had the effect of running off folks who don’t like conflict, folks who don’t like bigots, and folks who bought into the idea that politics is a dirty word. All these added to the ongoing decline in all the mainstream protestant denominations, which led to calls for a more “nimble” church.

During this time, two presiding bishops and the House of Bishops worked hard to placate their brother bishops and fellow priests and their conservative allies in the Anglican Communion. This purple brotherhood did virtually nothing to stop the bishops who later would leave The Episcopal Church while laying claim to millions of dollars’ worth of Episcopal Church property. If you have wondered why the larger church should help pay the legal expenses of San Joaquin and South Carolina, it’s because the wider church’s inaction allowed this legal mess to happen.

What happened in my diocese and the others happened not because General Convention is too big and too long, not because the PB doesn’t have enough power, not because there are too many CCABs, not because the Executive Council has too many people -- but because the balance between clergy and laity was tilted mightily in the direction of the clergy, silencing and marginalizing lay people. There were no countervailing voices strong enough to gainsay what the bishops were doing. There was no will among the House of Bishops to use even peer pressure, much less what canonical powers did exist, to rein these men in.

And now comes TREC with a proposal to turn us into a Roman Catholic Church Light with our own PB pope, a much smaller role for laity in a smaller General Convention and Executive Council, and – has anyone noticed? No change at all in the frequent meetings and workings of the House of Bishops. Additionally, in a church full of small congregations, this proposal will insure that no one from a small congregation can be elected to anything, Episcopalians living west of the Mississippi will be invisible and church wide staff for the most part will be independent contractors, which absolves employers of any emotional investment as well as most of the financial investment made in regular employees.

And all this is supposed to make us nimble – because look how nimble the Vatican is.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Why I am an Episcopalian - the elevator speech

I am an Episcopalian because The Episcopal Church is not afraid to explore what Baptism really means. When one is sealed as Christ’s Own Forever, there are no asterisks. Women, men, gay, straight, trans, black, white, Asian, Native American, Hispanic, mixed race – all are acknowledged as part of the Body. Figuring out what this means in the context of scripture is hard work. At its best, The Episcopal Church calls on everyone – bishops, priests, deacons, lay people -- to work in partnership to figure it out.  We don’t always get the balance right, but what I love is that we keep trying, struggling to love one another even when we may not like one another.