Friday, July 23, 2010

Sunday, August 1. 2010. Tenth Sunday after Pentecost.

© 2010 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Hosea 11:1-11

Hosea sees that God is in a crisis of conscience and indecision, greatly exasperated. Israel is disobedient. It keeps turning to other gods. From God’s perspective:

I led them with cords of human kindness,
with bands of love.
I was to them like those
who lift infants to their cheeks.
I bent down to them and fed them.

Some fathers use the same argument with their teenaged daughters determined to defy and disobey what the fathers have decided:

My restrictions were mere cords of human kindness;
the bands I used were bands of love.
I have loved her since she was a baby.
I have fed and clothed her

And what does it get me? She won’t do anything I ask; and now she’s leaving home.

My people are bent on turning away from me.

Like the father, God is very angry, but concludes “I will not execute my fierce anger.”

How did you respond to an angry parent determined to bend your will?

I was in my 20s before I discovered that a calm and loving silence worked. After a certain point, the parent had nowhere left to escalate the indignation, and I had said nothing to trouble the water further.

As Hosea describes the dynamic, it is God who turns patient, hard as it is to do so, and as a result, God expects Israel’s return:

They shall come trembling like birds from Egypt,
and like doves from the land of Assyria;
and I will return them to their homes, says the LORD.

In human families, the child is not always wrong in these struggles, nor is the parent always right.

Is the same true in our heavenly family? Is God always right? Are we always wrong when we try God’s patience?

God has freed us with a will of our own and minds of our own. Dare we not use them?

I doubt that the patriarchy in which Hosea lived would have allowed him or his readers to question fathers as I have done. But we don’t live within that patriarchy. Is God to remain captive to the image of father in Hosea’s time?

Psalm 107:1-9, 43

“God’s mercy endures for ever” or, as many African Christians proclaim at every opportunity, “God is good, all the time.

Psalm 107 counts the blessings experienced by the people of God.

Counting your blessings can be an important spiritual discipline, one which my husband Ernest masters far more effectively than I do. In the mid-1980s our employment required us to live twelve time zones apart. Required? Well, not exactly. One or the other could have sacrificed important personal growth to stay in the same place but with menial employment. We chose to live separately for more than two years. It was one of the hardest choices we had ever made. We owed our soul to the phone company and the airlines.

Too often I wallowed in depression and wrote long, whiny letters about how lonely I was. Ernest was lonely too, but rarely said so. Patiently, gently he encouraged me to get outside more, to take long walks, to visit museums more frequently, to indulge my fascination with Chinese culture and architecture. (He was in Minneapolis at the time; I in Hong Kong; then he was in Gualin, China while I was in New Jersey).

Looking back on the experience now that we are in our 37th year, I’m enormously grateful that we were willing to put our commitment to each other’s growth to a hard test. I rejoice that we passed it, bound closer not just by affection, but by enhanced respect and an even greater friendship. Picture book marriage can’t compete with the real thing.

Whoever is wise will ponder these things, *
and consider well the mercies of the LORD

Colossians 3:1-11

Christians believe in change. We expect to ‘get a life’ -- a new one. We expect to put off what is earthly. In our new life we get rid of the old life--the anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language.

In our renewal, our differences lose their power to divide. There is no longer Greek or Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, male and female, gay and straight, slave and free…… Old negative classifications like ‘barbarian’ no longer apply. We move beyond mere inclusion……

Wouldn’t that be nice?!

It can be. God expects it to be. We’re not meant to wait until heaven to live it. Let us live what we pray daily, “Let your realm come here as it already is in heaven.”

Luke 12:13-21

Whom do you know who is rich? Who in your life has ’the most toys’? Who stores up the most treasures for themselves?

Who in your life is “rich toward God”?

As a spiritual discipline, my friend Gray Temple, a priest, spent a Sabbatical several years ago living during the day as a homeless person on the streets of Atlanta. He had no illusions that his experience would match theirs; for one, he came home to his creature comforts in the suburb every night. He hoped the discipline would help him better understand the homeless and better understand himself.

Gray told me that he quickly learned he was not there to bring God to the poor and homeless. God had already beat him there. They brought God to him. They were aware of God’s presence with them far better than we who are comfortable are. We live as if we have less need of God, and summon God mainly for emergencies.

Gray did not romanticize the poor, nor minimize some of their own dysfunctional and destructive behaviors. Nor does God, who is always there as one of them.

After I earned my master’s, my first two teaching jobs were in prep schools, both quite good. I had gone to a fine prep school myself. I enjoyed the work immensely, but realized that I was using asssignment to keep on hold my coming to terms with my sexuality…...

In London I decided to work in the slums. I was interviewed for five jobs in the first week, was offered all five, and took the one in the most challenging school, a secondary modern school in Penge, just below the Crystal Palace in South London . It was a challenging assignment indeed. I taught five different large classes a day, and they had no textbooks, except for a few dusty Latin books which hadn’t been used in the many years since Latin was taught there. Often I reproduced texts which I had taught in prep schools, but sometimes those proved highly ineffective.

For example, F. Scott Fitzjerald’s story “The Rich Boy” was very popular in prep schools, because it addresses the subtle tensions Fitzgerald experienced in his attraction/repulsion to the very rich. The story begins, “The rich are not like you and me.” That had riveted some of my students in prep school. Those in Penge wondered why anyone would waste time on such an obvious reality. End of story.

But give the lads in Penge an opportunity for uninhibited invention, and they flowered. I brought an exercise to class that I had seen in a workshop led by actors at the old Vic. In it, one character wears a hat. The other character must get the hat from the first one; and the first one must try to keep the hat. The hat must be obtained not by physical force, but by wit, each actor staying in character and working up a situation where the wearer of the hat will give it up.

At the start, the first one to speak, the one with the hat, assigns his character and the character of the other by what he says. For example, he might begin: “I say, James, do you have the car ready to drive me to Westminster?” The second can stay stuck as the servant he has apparently been told to be, but with invention he can stay in character and still draw an opposing inference, saying ‘Just who do you think you are, little brother? I’m using the car to go to my soccer match….” On and on, until one works a way to get the hat while fully in character.

Some of the lads in Penge could get the hat from the other within 3-4 rounds with brilliant flashes of wit and imagination.

There are many ways to be rich. Do you prefer to end with the most toys or to be ‘rich toward God‘?

See also

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Sunday, July 25, 2010. Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

© 2010 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Is this prayer meant to be talismanic? Are we merely asking, “Help us through this ordeal”? Or, do we expect our petition itself to do the trick, as a kind of magic merely because we say the right things?

We might ask the same of all our prayers. What are our expectations? Is prayer efficacious, and if so, how?

Like many other collects, this one suggests that flattery might work with God. In it the petitioner speaks not to a friend, but to a ruler, and a strong one at that, on whose mercy any success depends in the ordeal of moving through this life in a way that will get us into heaven.

Where is Saint when we really need him, to remind us that our salvation has already been accomplished?

Groveling sometimes appears much easier than accepting and living into what has already been forgiven.

Hosea 1:2-10

Sexual candor came at a huge price for Hosea, a price that he paid publicly. He saw his whorish wife and their three children as defining a problem bigger than their family alone; for him they became a metaphor for all of Israel’s unfaithfulness. In Hosea’s account, God keeps his original promise to multiply Abraham’s seed like grains of sand on the seashore, but does so with cynical bitterness. God offers the sand no quarantine from radical oil spills.

Rt. Rev. William Wantland Wantland was one of the ten diocesan bishops who brought the initial presentment charging their colleague Walter Righter for heresy in ordaining as a priest Barry Stopfel, an out gay man living in a committed gay relationship. See my account of the trial in which Bishop Righter was exonerated.

Bishop Wantland married in 1954, but later annulled that marriage. Like Hosea, Bishop Wantland and his wife had three children. Did he annul the children as well?? He married a second time in 1985.

Some of us had trouble respecting Bishop Wantland’s contempt of gay unions given his own marital record. At one point I asked him if he could help me with that apparent contradiction. He replied that he would be willing to discuss his marriage privately. I told him that I did not want to invade his privacy. I wanted only what he was willing to say as publicly as the presentment against Bishop Righter.

On January 15, 2009 the House of Bishops deposed Bishop Wantland for abandoning communion with The Episcopal Church. He is now affiliated with the Anglican province of the Southern Cone.

Similarly The Rev. David Roseberry, rector of Christ Church in Plano, Texas, is a strong adversary against lgbt Christians. He hosted a large conference to object after General Convention 2003 consented to the election of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, the first election of an out gay bishop in the Anglican Communion. Bishop Robinson is married to Mark Andrew and the two had been together openly for 14 years at the time of Robinson’s consecration. Roseberry too is divorced. On September 15, 2006, Roseberry left The Episcopal Church for the Province of the Southern Cone.

The Rev. Earle Fox read a long list of specific erotic offenses which he attributed to homosexuals when he protested at the consecration of Bishop Robinson on November 2nd, 2003. Chief consecrator, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, interrupted Fox’s litany at one point saying “Spare us the details.” In The Clerical Directory Fox continued to claim he was married long after he was divorced. Earle Fox was deposed on May 26, 2009.

Instead of hiding his wife Gomer’s infidelities, Hosea proclaimed that God had planned it that way. He said that God made him take “a wife of whoredom.”

Psalm 85 or Psalm 85:7-13

It is always instructive to look closely at text which the lectionary makers make optional. In this case the full text is Psalm 85, but the lectionary creators make verses 1-6 optional. The psalm is much ‘cleaner’ without them, for if you omit those verses, you remove references of God’s wrath and indignation. If you keep the verses, God can easily seem a big, bad blusterer, especially in verses 4-6:

Restore us then, O God our Savior; *
let your anger depart from us.
Will you be displeased with us for ever? *
will you prolong your anger from age to age?
Will you not give us life again, *
that your people may rejoice in you?

At Rutgers: The State University of New Jersey, for many years I taught two courses on The Bible as Literature, one on Hebrew scripture and the other on Christian scripture. Many of my students were not Christian, and few regularly attended any religious worship. Most took the course out of intellectual interest; and by law, the course could not promote a particular religion. We brought to the bible the same objective criteria that we bring to any other literary text: we did not privilege the bible as ‘holy,’ and if any went away thinking it holy, the text on its own had to persuade them of that claim.

As with any other narrative, we looked closely at the characters. Few found the character of God in Hebrew Scriptures appealing; many found the character of Jesus appealing. One of the major put-offs for the character of God is his volatile and prolonged temper. “Will you prolong your anger from age to age?”

Probably without intending to do so, the psalmist comes off as much more likeable than God to modern readers, by strongly urging that God cease and desist. “Cool it, God,” is what many hear in these omitted verses.

Perhaps it would help to keep those verses intact. They allow us to express our displeasure with God's overwrought emotions and our sense of abandonment. Undoubtedly those verses offered a way to cope, even if an inadequate way to cope, for those enduring The Holocaust. They might also give solace to any who dare to believe that those who imprison lgbts for marrying are acting, as some claim, in God’s will. “Cool it, God. Let up already!”

But as air-conditioning isolates from the summer’s excesses, we have the option to stay just with the second half of Psalm 85, in which God “is speaking peace to his faithful people.”

Colossians 2:6-15 (16-19)

Again, look closely at the verses which the lectionary suggests as merely optional, 16-19:

Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.

Put more simply: “You don’t have to sweat the petty rules that some will want to impose on you.”

Attention: lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and the transgendered!

Attention: all others who desperately long for God but are still not sure that God loves you. God does, infinitely more than you could ask or even dream!

We don’t have to get it right; God has made us right.

Don’t let people intimidate you by complaining that you are not circumcised. Through Jesus God has given you a spiritual circumcision

Don’t let people intimidate you by complaining that you are not heterosexuals. Through Jesus God has made you spiritual heterosexuals, or whatever. I prefer to think She has made heterosexual Christians into spiritual Queers, for Christ’s sake!

As Quean Lutibelle amends it: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to heterosexual tradition, according to the hetero-normative spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ.”

Luke 11:1-13

I have not found a collect in the Book of Common Prayer that is as direct as “The Lord’s Prayer,” especially in Luke’s version, leaner than the others:

Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.

In my private prayer, I prefer the clearer challenge of Quean Lutibelle’s rendering: “God, use the same standard in forgiving me that I use in forgiving others.”

The Lord’s Prayer is deceptively simple: I should not risk praying the prayer unless I am prepared for the consequences.

Like many others, I am uncomfortable with “Do not bring us to the time of trial.” We know for certain that times of trial will always come. I prefer, “Be with me in the time of trial.”

See also

Sunday, July 18, 2010. Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

© 2010 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The sonorous periodicity of the collect might dull us to its questionable assumptions about who we are and who God is.

Does God really expect all this humility? Does God enjoy it when we grovel? Did God really make us unworthy? And even if God did, did not Jesus change all that? Are we supposed to bribe God through Jesus’ worthiness?

Compare the Quean Lutibelle alternative to this collect: “God, please give us what we need. Thank you, Jesus.”

Amos 8:1-12

Recently I listened to Heathcote Williams perform Benedict Flynn’s translation of Dante’s Inferno. With almost sadistic delight, Dante, at age 35, becomes ex officio the CEO of hell. Dante is not only the narrator but also the author, and as author he alone arranges hell. He creates nine descending circles of the damned, and he chooses who gets put into each circle. He also gets to choose the punishments -- each becoming more and more bizarre.

If you were hired as temp CEO of hell for a month, whom would you consign there and where would you put each using Dante’s template to account for all the wicked whom you have observed or heard about over your lifetime?

A few of the tortures which Amos imagines are tame by comparison to Dante’s:

I will turn your feasts into mourning,
and all your songs into lamentation;
I will bring sackcloth on all loins,
and baldness on every head

That fashion statement for punishment could stand a make-over, something to gussy it up a bit, something to match the concluding prophecy:

I will make it like the mourning for an only son,
and the end of it like a bitter day.
The time is surely coming, says the Lord GOD,
when I will send a famine on the land;
not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water,
but of hearing the words of the LORD.
They shall wander from sea to sea,
and from north to east;
they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD,
but they shall not find it.

Do not let the details of punishment distract you from noticing the behavior, which according to Amos, deserves such dire consequences:

Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
and bring to ruin the poor of the land,
saying, "When will the new moon be over
so that we may sell grain;
and the sabbath,
so that we may offer wheat for sale?
We will make the ephah small and the shekel great,
and practice deceit with false balances,
buying the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and selling the sweepings of the wheat."

Here this, Members of Congress, who bail out the banksters but exact fierce penalties from widows and orphans if they are undocumented, who reward hypocrites and adulterers but terminate talented soldiers if they dare tell you of their committed relationships.

Hear this, you who exact over 20 billion dollars a year in overdraft fees, but refuse to cap the salaries and bonuses of officers of your own financial institutions.

Et cetera.

Prophecy 101 is a breeze once you get the knack of it. But it is risky if you learn to do it well and come face to face, or youtube to eyeball, with those whose behavior you bewail.

Psalm 52

What a gem!

Do you have a boss who behaves like a tyrant? A mayor, or other elected official? An overpowering and evil family member? Send them a framed copy of Psalm 52 printed in Olde English Script.

Or better yet, use Psalm 52 to yell at God. She’s used to it, and it will make you feel much better to get the rage out of your system in a way that does not put you in yet further jeopardy.

However, don’t expect God to jump to honor your petition:

Oh, that God would demolish you utterly, *
topple you, and snatch you from your dwelling,
and root you out of the land of the living!

The psalm has you talking in the second person to the offender, not directly to God. This psalm intends God to be an eavesdropper until the very last verse, in which you speak to God:

I will give you thanks for what you have done *
and declare the goodness of your Name in the presence of the godly.

Caveat: beware of the smug self-righteousness into which this Psalm entices anyone who reads it:

But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; *
I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.

Don’t set you mouth to claim such a thing unless a trusted independent source can publicly certify your extra-virgin olive oil.

Colossians 1:15-28

Or as Quean Lutibelle would put it:

I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. I became its servant according to God's commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and the transgendered are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

Luke 10:38-42

I belong to the minority group put out with Jesus because of his rebuke of Martha. It’s easy enough for him as the guest and as a male never required to do housework, to dismiss Martha’s faithful domesticity, but does he himself not eat her food and enjoy the accommodation that she works to keep clean and orderly?! There is no McDonalds nor KY Fried Lamb establishment to which they might retreat so that all three could feast on conversation without let or hindrance.

True, even in this village all three could get to treasured conversation expeditiously if all three of them committed to clean the house, cook the meal, and wash up. Grab a mop, Jesus! It will enrich your conversation.

Theologian Carter Heyward has proclaimed, “Love with out justice is cheap. Sentimentality!”

See also

Sunday, July 11, 2010. Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

© 2010 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Early in our marriage, but well after the ‘honeymoon’ was over, I realized how difficult it is to behave justly towards Ernest, given my own selfishness and my decades of learning how to mask it even from myself.

“Please tell me when I am not doing my fair share of the work of our life together,” I urged Ernest. “Tell me if I miss my turn to buy the gas, clean the bathroom, wash the dishes……”

“I don’t want to monitor your behavior,” he replied gently, “but only my own. I want you to take responsibility for yourself, and I will do my best to take responsibility for myself.”

Very likely God would like to say the same thing to us when we pray the collect today. The collect makes us sound so honorable. It implies we want to do what is right, but the collect sets us up with a ready excuse when we do not: “I asked God to show me what is right about….[women’s ordination, racial integration, lgbt marriage, undocumented citizens…….], but God never gave me a clear answer. I tried. I really did.”

“I don’t want to monitor your behavior and tell you what to do at every turn,” God might gently reply to our collect. “I will monitor my own behavior to see that I am generous and patient even to a fault. And I want you to take responsibility for yourself to be the same.”

Amos 7:7-17

Amos does not think of himself as a prophet but as a ‘herdsman and a dresser of sycamore trees.” Prophecy is not his profession, as he sees it, but his faithful response to God’s command.

When we experience dramatic insight, it is often difficult to claim it as our own. Often it arrives as if revealed, from outside us.

In my classes on the Bible As Literature, I have often begun a class with a ‘wake-up’ exercise before getting into the meat of the day’s reading. In one such exercise, I begin by giving each student ten 3x5 index cards. “On every card, at the top right, use the same numeric code that only you will know as your own. End the numeric code with “M” or “F” to indicate your gender.

“Next, put on each card one of 10 things that are wrong with Newark (or Rutgers, or New Jersey, or the United States….). Do this quickly without editing your thoughts.”

As soon as students are no longer writing, I then ask them to rank items in their list, on a scale of 1 to 10, “1” being the most egregious or most urgent, “10” being the least egregious or least urgent.

When they have finished, I collect the cards, shuffle them, divide them into four stacks, and then give a stack to each of four groups of the students.

“This is Lesson One in Prophecy 101,” I explain.

“But we are not prophets,” I imagine many of them thinking. “We are merely students. I am a major in _____ (sycamore trees? Tending herds?)”

“Take your packet and write a monologue for God to use in speaking to Newark (or Rutgers, or New Jersey, or the United States….). Use the text on the cards as a prompt, but edit where you think you can make it more forceful or cogent as you imagine God might say it.”

Later we can look at any one of the biblical prophets and compare their own rhetorical strategies with those of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, or, as in today’s reading, Amos.

Many of the prophets do more than tell what is wrong; like Amos they name dire consequences to follow if the people do not repent. My students need no prompt to imagine dire consequences.

And many of the prophets, like Amos, get into trouble with those most indicted by their judgments.

In recalling this assignment, I find myself longing for an Amos or a Jeremiah to speak the truth to BP, Halliburton and Transocean about oil spills; for an Amos or a Jeremiah to speak the truth to all three branches of our federal government.

It is extremely important to us as Christians not merely to hunker in the security of our sycamore trees. Prophecy is not nearly so hard to understand as it is to do. Speaking truth to power takes courage, especially if you do it really well.

Prophesy! Prophesy!

Psalm 82

Psst! Be sure that someone sings the psalm in hopes that the congregation does not pay critical attention to the words of it. If you must say it instead of sing it, intone it so as to draw attention to your manner rather than to the theology.

Be grateful that this is mid-summer, and many will be on vacation.

Otherwise, you might risk letting far too many people notice that Scripture itself does not proclaim just one God, but a “council of heaven” where Yahweh “gives judgment in the midst of Gods.”

It is not altogether clear whom Yahweh addresses when he accuses, “How long will you judge unjustly and show favor to the wicked?” The nearest grammatical referent for “you” is “the gods” with him in the council of heaven. It appears these other gods have great power and they exercise it unfairly.

God then prophesies to these rival gods,

Now I say to you, 'You are gods, *
and all of you children of the Most High;

Nevertheless, you shall die like mortals, *
and fall like any prince.

For right now, there are many gods, but at the last judgment only one will survive?

As the French would say, “C’est tres interessant.”

Colossians 1:1-14

Elsewhere, Saint is quite outspoken that we are saved by faith, not by any good works, not by our obedience to the law. Here, as in many other places, he points to good works favorably, not as a means of grace, but as evidence that we have already received grace. Good works, according to Saint, are a very good measure of the Spirit at work within us.

Good works are the fruit of the Spirit.

Saint particularly rejoices in the strength of the Colossian Christians, who are “prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father.” Any present suffering is quite worth the costs when God has enabled us “to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”

General Theological Seminary included me in a 2009-2010 lecture series "Identity, Community and the Church." Specifically I was asked to compare the life of lgbts in The Episcopal Church now with the way that it was in 1974 when I founded Integrity. I tried to balance my personal experience with the corporate experience as more and more of us organized to share the good news of God’s love of absolutely everybody. I pointed to the steady additions of protections of lgbt persons now in the canons

I told of being laughed at by several on the switchboard at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco in the summer of 1974 when I called asking them to put Ernest and me, recently wed, in touch with other gay Episcopalians. I described how that mockery, so clearly not of God, prompted me to start and organization and to name it Integrity, as a way to reclaim what the Church had violated.

I included details of some of the hostile responses through the years:

  • I was accused by Bishop James Dees of causing a tornado in the tiny town where we lived. 1975
  • The vestry of my own parish asked to find some other place of worship. 1975
  • A GTS dean told me that my rector in Wisconsin bragged about his attacks on Ernest when they med on the street: “You are living in sin!” he would tell Ernest.
  • A large apartment complex in Macon, Georgia denied housing to Ernest and me, as a federal investigator documented.
  • Teenagers pelted our apartment in Fort Valley, GA with stones every spring….
  • The Bishop of Atlanta summoned me for discipline using the Atlanta Journal.
  • Vestries in Georgia and Wisconsin threatened me with excommunication.
  • A dean at American University overruled the unanimous decision of AU’s search committee to hire me.
  • A department secretary at Wisconsin mocked me to a scholar calling from California; a secretary in a dean’s office in Rutgers left an obscene phone call on my answering machine unaware that I had one of the first caller ids -- which identified the phone number of the dean‘s office……
  • Bullies threatened to run over me when I jogged….

On and on the list could grow. Fortunately this hostility did not happen all at once, but was spread over three decades. But reMembering these narratives, I found myself rejoicing, in the same sense that Saint talks about the Colossian Christians, because like them, I have been “rescued … from the power of darkness and transferred … into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

In my head is a tape my family and my community in Alabama had prepared as the script for my life. In it I grow up to be a Southern Baptist preacher wielding a bible to thump everyone who does not live life as a good Southern Baptist. The tape is bestrewn with azaleas and whiteness. No person of color appears except an occasional servant….

I rejoice that God made me gay. Otherwise, very likely I would have dwelt in darkness without self-knowledge, unaware of the rich diversity of God‘s creation. Only by being cut off from presumptive hetero privilege was I challenged sufficiently to take on the hard, life-long work of my own education. Any hostility that I have endured because of my work as a gay Christian brings me immense joy as a “share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”

Luke 10:25-37

I was a part of the group of seven lgbt persons who met with the Archbishop of Canterbury when he attended the 2009 General Convention in Anaheim. Each of us had only 80 seconds to speak. I told him that I understood that as Jesus could not take on the Samaritan cause front and center as he brought the gospel to the Jews, the Archbishop probably could not take on the lgbt cause front and center as he serves the Communion. “But you, like Jesus,” I told him, have an obligation to pepper your conversation with reports of ‘good queers’ ‘good lesbians’, ‘good gay men’, who as the rejects of the Communion nevertheless live as faithful witnesses of what it is to ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Prophesy! Prophesy!

See also