"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Paul to the persecuted at Philippi (2:5-11)

19 October 2019

Sijo for Isaiah

Will 'o the Wisp, of local lore, a spark flits among the trees-
And laughs.  Delighted with his prank, he calls again, and disappears.
Here and gone, a glimpse once more.  And then, heavenward flies.  - Isaiah

18 July 2019

Why 'Send her back' is the uncross-able line

Last night at a rally in North Carolina, the president's fan club chanted "send her back" in reference to a member of the United States Congress.

Let that sit for a moment.

Ilhan Omar is a naturalized US Citizen.   She came here as a child seeking asylum from an unmanageable and war-torn situation.  She was raised here.  This is the only country she really knows.  She has gone through the process and become one of us.

One of us to whom the First Amendment applies, the right of free speech.

She holds opinions which I do not, by and large, share.  If she were running in my district, I would not likely have voted for her.  But she holds those opinions as her right, she offers them according to her right.  If it is okay to chant "send her back" because of her opinions, then we are saying one thing loud and clear...

Naturalized US Citizens do not hold the same rights and natural-born US Citizens.  If we don't like them, send them back.  No expiration dates.

If Rep. Ilhan Omar, whose job as a member of Congress is to seek out problems and yes, tell the government how it should be run, cannot critique the United States, then no naturalized citizen can.  Every person at that rally who was pumping a fist and shouting "send her back" was telling every naturalized citizen of the USA, the First Amendment is not for you.

In the interest of full disclosure, my son is a naturalized US Citizen.   This is his country, since he was still in diapers.  He has his critiques of it, too, but it is his home.  Every person shouting at Ilhan Omar last night was shouting at my child.

If the First Amendment does not apply to all of us, it does not apply to any of us.  Donald Trump himself made that clear.  If you don't "love this country" in the way that he defines it, he says you're unAmerican.

UnAmerican.  Let that sit for a moment, too.

Those of us who know our history know how that word plays out.  How the McCarthy era sought out dissenters and those who were connected to them, in a spirit of paranoia this country has rarely matched, called them unAmerican and stripped them of their rights.  Trump is old enough to remember that.  How'd that work for us, Mr. Trump?

No mistake.  Every one of those attacks is an attack against me and my family.   Every one of those attacks is an attack against you and your First Amendment rights.

This is more than Trump's personal xenophobia.  This is an open attack on the heart of our nation.

America.  The ball's in our court.


25 June 2019

Stuff I love about Anglicanism

Okay, I admit it, I've been a bit put out with the Anglican Church of late.  Our current tenancy to seek after the new things (church plants, praise bands, godly but on trend spiritual practices) at the expense of the old and sacred (turn around churches, liturgy, and dare I say, tradition!) wears really thin really fast for me.  I came here for the old and sacred, the Church Fathers, the smells and bells, the Gospel in liturgical movement, the sometimes silly acts of deep piety.  Anything else makes me feel cheated.

So I didn't want to go to Provincial Assembly.  And really, I came home from Assembly annoyed with a lot of the claptrap I witnessed there.  But in the end, I did go, and the reason I went swallowed up my annoyance while I was there.

I went because a sister deacon, whom I'd never met face to face offered me a place to stay (no hotel and rental car budget), which made my surface objection (just getting back from Israel and therefore too much travel... more on Israel in another post) kind of silly. 

And I went because I was woefully lacking in the fellowship of my tribe.  Anglo-Catholics and deacons, these are my people.  How could I resist a few days in the company of my own kind? 

So I went.  I got hugged by bishops, had meals with old friends in other dioceses, wore my Ask Me About Nashotah House pin everywhere but to bed (and added a Trinity sticker and RES logo for good measure).  I kvetched with my people.  I laughed with them.  Schemed a little, too.   We talked deacons, the diaconate, liturgy, Jesus, and how Nashotah is (in my opinion) the ACNA's Iona, holding on to the sacred relics until the whole church realizes they need them.

In the end, I went, and realized why I stayed an Anglican.  We have a mission, albeit an uncomfortable one.

But it wasn't until I got home that I reflected enough to realize why I don't just *stay* an Anglican, but why I love being an Anglican.

I love being an Anglican because ARDF (Anglican Relief and Development Fund) seeks partnership, not paternalistic dominance over the ones they serve.  Bishops from all over the world came to our doorstep as brothers, in part because ARDF goes to their doorstep as servants.  I made friends with the Bishop of Matana Diocese, Burundi because ARDF was there being a friend first.   (And because we could speak French together!)

I love being an Anglican because other Anglicans I know are being intentional about healthy diversity in the Church (nod to the Anglican Multi-Ethnic Network) acknowledging that diversity, true diversity, involves all races and ethnicities.  Their table is pretty broad, and I'm honored by their narratives, ideas, hard work and vision.   Moreover, I trust them enough to be vulnerable before them, which as a white person is a very big deal.

I love being an Anglican because when I see a mission I am called, eager to support, I am doing so in lock-step with other Anglicans, many of whom I know.  I trust where my money is going when I donate to ARDF or the churches on the border ministering to immigrants and connected to the Anglican Immigrant Initiative. (Heck, I love that there is an Anglican Immigrant Initiative!)

I love that we work with our hands.  We don't expect the government to solve our problems.  We're not lobbyists.  We donate, motivate, roll up our sleeves and serve.  On the border, in the margins, abroad or next door.  And I love that our polity lets us welcome and serve all our brother and sister Christians regardless of their denominational labels.

Of course I love that Anglicans love Jesus.  That's not negotiable.  But the rest is what keeps me here, instead of some other Jesus-loving body.  So Anglicanism, you're stuck with me.  You're stuck with this gadfly for ontological thinking, fancy-schmancy liturgics, deep community... I was going to add biblical authority, but Anglcianism doesn't mind that much.  In short, you're stuck with this pre-enlightenment relic.  Its okay.  I think I'm stuck with you, too.

09 November 2018

Putting the pieces together.

Okay, maybe as a white person, I'm a little slow on the uptake, but the penny just dropped on this one, even though it took place twelve years ago.

I almost entitled this "Baby's first racism."  Maybe I just did.

When we brought our son into our family, he was ten months old.  It wasn't but a month or two later that we were at a friend's house for some party or another with some of our friend's other friends that we knew, but not well.  One of the women, looked at our son and said, "Aw.  I bet he's smart."

And smart is a positive thing, so it didn't seem like it was out of place to say about my baby.  Except that she clearly thought that he was smart because he's Korean.  After all, most of us see a baby and say "oh, he's so cute."  "I bet he's smart" is not really the first observation we make about babies, who given the opportunity will lick the dog and flush our keys down the toilet.    Still, smart is good, so I accepted her opinion as quaint and moved on.

Until I saw her again a couple of months later.  All she could say about my toddler was the same thing. "I bet he's smart."  A second time, the same comment.  This time it felt awkward, as it piled onto its predecessor and emphasized its racial bias.  But again, smart is a good thing, right?  I squelched my discomfort.

Let me repeat that.  I, a white person, squelched my discomfort for the sake of someone who was exhibiting racial bias to my face about my family.  Well, you don't see that every day.  Or I don't. But my non-white friends do.  As I said, the penny just dropped.

The third time I saw her and she said the same thing (all good stories happen in threes, don't they?) about my baby being smart, I squelched my discomfort again, but only slightly this time.  "What do you mean?"  "He must be smart.  Aren't all Asians smart?"

This time I could see what was happening, but again played the polite game my mama taught me.  The response I swallowed was "oh.  Well what races do you think are not smart?"  It was a party.  She was a friend of a friend.  But I kind of wish I had said it.

Some years later, my friend quoted her friend as being worried.  A children's program we were both in also included several Muslim families.  Friend-of-friend was worried because she did not want Muslims influencing her children.  I told my friend quickly that she should not discuss this with me but with her son who had lived a year among Muslims in Israel.  I assumed she understood me, as the conversation ended quickly.  Only it came back around again some months later.

That's when I lost my cool and told my dear friend that "your friend X is racist."

Oops.  Did I just let that word fall from my lips?

Honestly I was kind of stunned that my friend is still speaking to me.  Of course, she hasn't invited me to any parties with her other friend since.  No great loss.

As a white person is it my responsibility to squelch my discomfort?  Or is it my responsibility to vocalize what my brown child cannot, in "polite" company?

But the penny that dropped tonight is this: Racism can actually talk a good game.  Racism can say "these people are smart."  It can say "these people are athletic."  It can say "these people are superior."  It can say these things all in one breath because racism talks a good game.

But it is unbalanced.  For every "smart" race, you create in your mind a "dumb" one.  You jam little kids into one box or another without regard to their unique God-given personality and purpose. When I was young and skinny, my great aunt used to tell me "you should be a cheerleader" because she had an idea of cheerleaders.  I hated that because it had nothing to do with my idea of myself, and her insistence caused distance between us.  When you jam a person into a box based on your opinion of their externals, the distance is inevitable.

For what it is worth, my kid is smart.  He's athletic, too.  None of that has to do with the fact that he has brown skin (except he's less likely to sunburn on the soccer field than his fairer friends).  He has friends across the racial rainbow who are smart, athletic, talented, just like him.... except where they're not like him at all, because variety is the spice of life.

31 October 2018

To the Jewish Community of Pittsburgh (and all who would care to read)

I had not written sooner because I did not know what to say.  But the worst thing I could say is silence, and so forgive my fumbling attempt.

To the Jewish Community of Pittsburgh:
I love you.
Because my some of ancestors were Jews, I feel a special connection to you.
Because my Messiah was a Jew, I feel drawn to you.
Because my home is in Pittsburgh, the same as yours, I feel we are one people.
Because you care for the immigrant and the helpless, I feel we share a purpose.
Because some of my friends are Jewish, I feel we are friends.
Because you worship, pray, celebrate a life in our G-d, I feel we are the same.
Because your people have been persecuted, as have the faithful of the Church, I feel your pain.
But most of all, because you are...
Because you exist...
Because you were created in the image of G-d...
Because you are human...
I love you.
Love is not a feeling, it is a life-force which drives us to act....
Drives us to our knees...
Drives our very lives...
"Love one another, as I have loved you."
Because we share in the image of the one G-d, who made us one people, and who knit all people together in his one teaching,
I love you. 

Go in peace, those who have departed.
Remain in peace, those who remain.

שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָֽד

29 September 2018

Rejecting the In Persona Christi argument

Okay, I admit it, this set poorly with me when my kids were in sixth grade in Catholic school and the catechism questions on ordination came home for them to study.  Once in a while, their Anglican mom will rebel, help them to do so even, but it was particularly hard in the sixth grade when their religion teacher was the sweet Spanish guy who labeled all his exams "Nice Little Quiz."  I don't know if it was the English is his second language factor or the Nice Little Quizzes but I could never quite encourage rebellion.  Besides, he's a really sweet guy.

But that's all neither here nor there... the question was something along the lines of why women can't be priests.  Y'all, gentle readers, know that I wrestle with this and have spent parts of my life and ministry on both sides of this fence, sometimes at the same time.  Nothing new there.  But the answer was one, which I'd heard before but still, which I find unsettling.  The answer was that women can't be priests because the priest stands in persona Christi at the altar.  Women, apparently, don't look enough like Jesus for ordination. 

Never mind that most of the priests I know are not Near Eastern Jews. 
Many are ordained at an age Jesus never saw in his earthly sojourn. 
Some are in need of glasses and other medical devices which would make them less than perfect for Temple worship, and therefore not "without blemish" either. 
And not a one of them is willing to die for my sins. 
Go on, ask every priest you know.  

But that is not even why I find that question really unsettling...  the part I couldn't put my finger on that day, but today I can is this:
The priest simply does not stand in persona Christi at the altar.
Jesus himself does that. 

Jesus. is. in persona Christi. at. every. Eucharist.  Full stop. 

As a deacon, it is counter to my identity to take the place of the priest.  Even when he is not physically present (the so-called Deacon's Mass) he is still the priest and his presence is known and honored there.  How much more is this true with Christ?  

If Christ is really present at the Eucharist, what business is it of the priest to stand in his place?

The ordination of the priest, however, is quite clear.  He is authorized to absolve and bless on behalf of the Church.  He has the voice of the Church.  At the altar, it is the prayers of the Church he brings to God.  When the Eucharist is celebrating with the priest facing the altar, as is traditional, he is present as the first among the people, being the voice not of Christ but of Christ's Church.  He is, in the words of the Eastern Church, in persona Ecclesia.  

The Priest, further, is not a part of Christ but a part of the Church and particularly authorized to be her voice.  

And here I do say "her."  

If the priest stands in persona ecclesiae, and ecclesia is traditionally not only a feminine noun but also traditionally feminized in imagery (Bride of Christ) even in the letters of the supposedly misogynistic Church Fathers, then there should be no barrier to a woman's priesthood in persona ecclesiae.

I am not nutty enough to demand an exclusively feminine priesthood on this basis.... it would be a fallacy of another sort.... but it does seem that the argument opens an intriguing door.  

Am I coming out of the closet in favor of women's ordination to the priesthood?  No, I'm not.  Instead, I'm asking us to re-examine our arguments instead of just reasserting them. I am reluctant to stand in the generation that thought so highly of itself that it altered 2000 years of Christian practice.  I am hesitant to affect the entire sacramental relationship which binds the Church together.  I am unsure of the support from Scripture or Tradition for such radical changes.  And above all I am passionately in love with the whole of Christ's Church, much of which would consider women priests a stumbling block.  

But I am asking us to begin to think carefully about the images we use and what they are really saying, so that when the Church does settle these questions, she can do so with integrity.  

21 August 2018

Performance Art

During my vacation, I had the utter joy of attending choral Evensong, not once, but twice.  One day at Westminster Abbey and the next at Canterbury.  And yes, it was sublime in every way it was supposed to be.  The choirs were beautiful, the organ was powerful, the liturgy was the solid rock on which the rest stood firm.  Not to mention the beauty of the churches themselves....

Beautiful, and wholly unsettling.  Especially at Westminster.

We were herded into the Abbey for what was billed as prayer but was in fact a cultural event, a museum piece in music.  Under no circumstances were we to enjoy our surroundings.  The man seated next to my mother was upbraided by a verger for taking out his tour book, as if informing himself about the art and architecture in which he sat would take from the experience rather than add to it.

But more notably was the beauty of the choir.  Under no circumstances were we to sing back to them.  Each phrase was sung antiphonally, by the professionals only.  To add our own broken voices would have been a desecration of their art. And so I squelched my "and with your spirit" and my "Christ have mercy" along with any other informed Anglican in that chancel.  As luck would have it, I sat in a familiar place in the stalls, but felt alienated from any role, let alone my familiar one.

The familiarity of the experience heightened my loss of voice.

And that strikes me as the opposite of the Kingdom, in which the very brokenness of our voices is turned to beauty and our performance art is nothing in our Lord's sight.

14 hours later, some man decided to drive his car into the crowd just outside that same Abbey church. And from Canterbury prayers were offered at Evensong.

I'm not sure how or if I should respond to those two Westminster images, placed side by side in my mind now, both melancholy.  But more vivid for me is how, in Canterbury, a genuine prayer broke through the performance art in response to the evil of the day.

I hope it does not always take tragedy for truth to break through.  I'm afraid it all too often does.

Christ have mercy.