Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Vagenda of Manocide

No, that's not a typo. That is a direct quote from this sign spied on the campaign trail and now making the rounds on Twitter.

"Beware The Beast: Hildbeast Clinton And Its Vagenda Of Manocide."

Seriously. I couldn't make it up. It's evidently the brainchild (and yes -- I use the term loosely) of a dude who's kinda famous in his parts for outrageous stuff like this -- at least according to

It is hard to even wrap your brain around -- much less image a response to -- such overt misogynistic absurdity. Which is precisely why you need to get ready for the best part.

Guess what happens if you go to Seriously. It's an actual URL. Check it out.

That's right. It's a Donate to Hillary Clinton for America page.

Someone on the HRC staff was smart, savvy and with it enough to snatch up the URL and do the Genesis 50:20 thing -- turning what was intended for harm as a means to accomplish good.

I don't know about you but that kind of creativity and agency gives me hope that when we make it through these last days of the longest election cycle in the history of voting we're going to have smart, savvy, with it people in charge -- people who are committed to moving us forward into a future where we really are #StrongerTogether rather than #PolarizedToPieces.

In the meantime, I'm hearing rumors that the next hot Feminist Thrash Metal Band is going to be calling itself The Vagenda of Manocide. You just might have heard it here first.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Winning Some and Losing Some on a Summer Afternoon

This is my last week of vacation -- I go back to work next Monday after a lovely long time off with travel, family time and lots of R&R at home. Yesterday I got bit by the writing bug and decided to use some of my leisure time to dust off a piece I've posted before ... Top Ten Questions about Jesus, The Bible and LGBT People ... and update it for the current election cycle.

I posted it over on the Huffington Post -- you can read it here -- and then got back to the "To Do On Vacation" list. Now, the piece is hardly "going viral" ... but I knew it must be garnering some readership when I started getting hate mail ... from both rabid anti-LGBT Christians who accuse me of leading people to the Lake of Fire and from rabid atheists who are sure they'll change my mind if they point out that the Bible has inconsistencies.

Then there was this. I just went to check my email between loads of laundry (Item #7 on Today's Gay Agenda) and found these two emails quite literally back to back in my inbox.
Aloha Rev. Susan:

I just read your post on the Huffington Post site about the "10 questions...." Your answers and understanding are so clear and easily understood that I would like to share them with my members/friends/allies in our weekly newsletter.

I am currently pastor of Open Arms Metropolitan Community Church on the Big Island of Hawaii. We are a small community with a big heart. While I recognize that most of those who will read the newsletter already have some of the information you so clearly state, it is such a blessing to have it all laid out in such a logical and useful form. Prayers that you will be able to continue shining your light of compassion and understanding.

Love and blessings,
Rev. Dr. William H. Knight
To Susan Russell,

Where do I start? You so casually dismiss plain biblical teachings to validate your sinful life. 2 Peter 2 talks about the depravity of false teachers, speaking of evil things that they don't even understand. Those who have a heart trained in covetousness, and are accursed children, carousing in their own deceptions, those who have forsaken the right way. These Peter says are wells without water. You Susan if you don't repent will perish in your own corruption. You stated that Jesus never said anything about the homosexual. Well He did in fact do so in Matt 19:5f when He said, "have you not read, He who made them in the beginning made them male and female and for this reason a man should leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, together being one flesh." This is the sexual relationship that Jesus taught. But lets remember, or don't you believe that all of the writers of the Bible were inspired of God, they didn't write what they wanted to, they were directed by God Himself. Does 1 Corinthians 6 mean nothing? You are twisting scripture to your own destruction. Teaching the doctrines of demons. It's clear, the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. Unless they repent and are washed. The saddest part of this is, how many souls will be lost because of what you teach?

May God grant you the time to repent. 
Jeff Richardson
Aurora, MO.
As my friend and mentor Liz used to say all the time, "You win some and you lose some ... but you always dress out!"

And anybody who is tempted to think for a nanosecond that the work of dismantling the homophobia that infects the church and afflicts the world is even close to over just drop me a text, tweet or email and I'll be happy to give you a little reality check on why we keep dressing out. Seriously.

More later. Cheers!

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Claiming the Blessing: Fourteen Years Old YESTERDAY

Yesterday got away from me without marking it here as the 14th anniversary of my very first day at work at All Saints Church in Pasadena and the official launch of Claiming the Blessing: the intentional collaborative of organizations and individuals within the Episcopal Church advocating for the full inclusion of all the baptized in all sacraments of the church.

My, my. my how time flies when you're having fun.

On August 2, 2002 we set up shop in the "corner cubicle" in the "temporary trailer" in the North Driveway on the All Saints campus and we got to work on our agenda.

Yes, the truth can now be told -- the rumors were absolutely true. We TOTALLY had "an agenda" -- and it was:
"Promoting wholeness in human relationships, abolishing prejudice and oppression, and healing the rift between sexuality and spirituality in the Church."
Since 2002, our advocacy has included liturgies for the blessing of same-sex relationships, equal access to all orders of ministry by qualified gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender candidates and supporting civil and sacramental marriage equality.

In 2015 we saw extraordinary progress toward the goal of ending marriage discrimination in the Episcopal Church when the 78th General Convention — meeting in Salt Lake City — adopted resolutions that amended our canons on marriage and approved liturgies for equal use by same and opposite sex couples.

While there is inarguably still work to do to eradicate homophobia and discrimination against LGBTQ people in the church and in the world, it has been a deep privilege to be part of doing our part through the work of Claiming the Blessing and in partnership with heroes and sheroes of the movement too many to mention.

La lucha continua -- but for moment, let's mark this 14h anniversary with gratitude for the progress so far. (Visit our website for the CTB story.)

Friday, July 29, 2016

A crack at a time. A ceiling at a time.

Last night -- July 28 -- we watched history being made. Hillary Clinton's acceptance of the nomination of the Democratic Party for President of the United States broke through the glass ceiling she put 18 million cracks in back in 2008 and was a sign of hope and encouragement for anyone who believes love, justice and compassion trumps hatred, division and exceptionalism.

I loved what friend Peter Drier wrote.(You gotta love a guy who "gets" both politics and baseball!)
Donald Trump was born on third base but thinks he hit a triple. Tonight, Hillary Clinton hit a triple.

Triples are harder to hit than home runs. They require power AND base-running ability. When you hit a homer, you can jog around the bases. To hit a triple, you have to run full-speed from home plate to third base. You have to know your own strengths and those of your opponent - do I have the speed to make it third, does the outfielder have the arm strength to throw me out? Triples take grit and determination. They don't always excite the crowd like home runs. But they help your team win the game.
The "game" we're determined to win is nothing less than making liberty and justice for all not just a pledge we make but a reality we live in this nation. And last night we took a huge step forward toward achieving that elusive goal -- toward winning that game.

And now this morning -- July 29 -- as we continue to celebrate the history our nation just made in Philadelphia, I am reminded that we celebrate the anniversary of history made in our church: the ordination of eleven women in Philadelphia that shattered a stained glass ceiling and changed the church forever and for the better.

No, it didn't fix everything wrong with the church and of course it didn't end sexism once and for all. (And just for the record: no one smart enough to make that stained glass ceiling crack was naive enough to think we were "done.")

Forty-two years later we're still at it ... but today is one of the days we pause to celebrate the incremental victories along the way to the audacious goal not yet realized -- the goal of the end of gender bias and sexism and healing of the sin of misogyny not only in our church but in our world.

We are on this journey together. And as I wrote yesterday in my "Letter to My Sons" just before Hillary broke that glass ceiling in Philadelphia:
The glass ceiling that shatters today is about all of us - including you. It is about the opportunity you have to use your platform of privilege as straight, white, men to use the power that privilege gives you as an antidote to the rabid, sexist rhetoric that contaminates our public discourse in general and this presidential election campaign in specific.

It is about owning the words of Emma Lazarus — “Until we are all free, we are none of us free” - and recognizing that the shattering of this glass ceiling is another step toward freeing both women and men to become all they were created to be; another part of the journey toward making liberty and justice for all not just a pledge we make but a reality we live.
A crack at a time. A ceiling at a time. An inch at a time. La lucha continua.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Hillary Goes for the Touchdown

So it's officially Clinton Kaine 2016.

As we head into the Democratic National Convention next week -- another chapter in the longest election season in the history of politics -- the long awaited unveiling of Hillary Clinton's VP pick happened this morning at an event even Andrea Mitchell had to agree was "a home run."

Here's how the Daily Beast reviewed it:

Friend Diana Butler Bass -- a Virginian -- called him "kind, thoughtful, and a man of deep faith" -- and then posted this voting record:
    Planned Parenthood: 100%
    Brady Campaign: 100%
    NARAL: 100%
    Human Rights Campaign: 100%
    AFL/CIO: 94%
Some pundits immediately jumped in with words like "boring" and "safe." In response -- reading through his bio last night -- I came up with this meme:

Now -- after watching him "Kill It" in Florida today -- I've got some further thoughts. And those include:

This is a resounding "we've heard what you're selling and we're not buying" response to the Four Day Debacle in Cleveland AKA "The Lunatics Take Over the GOP Asylum."

This isn't a safe choice -- this is a leadership choice.
This is a "don't settle for a field goal, go for the touchdown" choice."
This is a unify the the nation -- not just the party -- choice.

With Obama, Biden, Warren, Sanders and Booker ready to rock and roll the Clinton campaign is trusting the intelligence of the progressive left to step up, turn out and support the ticket. And -- by picking a bilingual social justice Catholic who is pro-choice and pro-marriage equality with a resume that includes civil rights attorney, death penalty opponent and long time NRA adversary with a track record of working across the aisle in Virginia and in the Senate -- they are going after the moderate middle voters who are desperate for an alternative to the "Make America Hate Again" agenda of Team Trump/Pence.

So color me on the enthusiastic side of supportive. Sign me up to convert #ImWithHer to #ImWithThem. Let's do this. #GameOn

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Of Mary Magdalene and Fish Who Know They’re Wet

I had a great time both writing and preaching this sermon. I started out with a vision of weaving together the feminist critique that pretty much has to be part of any sermon on Mary Magdalene with other interlocking oppressions in general and racism in specific.

The rapidly unfolding events of the news cycle sadly provided both the opportunity and the challenge -- the news of the police shootings in Baton Rouge broke as I pulled into my parking space before the 7:30 service.

And the death of Former Presiding Bishop Ed Browning added another level of personal poignancy and historic context.

Anyway, it was "well received"-- and as always I'm grateful for the privilege of being part of a place like All Saints Church where there is room enough for a preacher to tell the truth ... both about how beautiful and hard life can be; how far we fall short of the mark how often and yet how much hope and promise there is in the Gospel ... and in the work and witness of those who have gone before us.

Sunday, July 17, 2016: All Saints Church Pasadena
Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene [transferred]

Let there be peace among us, and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression. Amen.

This is the prayer I’ve come to think of as the Gospel According to Barbara. They are the words Bishop Barbara Harris – the first woman bishop in the Anglican Communion – has used to begin every sermon I ever heard her preach – and they are the words that came to me as soon as I began working on this sermon for this morning’s celebration of the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene.

The appointed day is actually July 22nd but since here at All Saints Church (for more years than anyone but Anne Peterson can remember) we transfer her feast to an adjacent Sunday, for us today IS Mary of Magdalene Day!

Now, I may not remember when All Saints started doing it, but I do remember that at the time it was considered kind of an edgy-if-not-radical thing: moving "her" feast day out of the shadows of weekday observance into the center ring on a Sunday. That was in the pre-Da Vinci Code Days when the work being done to reclaim Mary Magdalene's identity by feminist scholars was finally leaking into the pew and pulpit. It seems a very long time ago.

We’ve been at this for decades now – do we really still have to point out that biblical scholars agree that for centuries, Mary Magdalene was misidentified as a prostitute, although nothing in our scriptural record identifies her as one?

Do we really need to revisit how that came about: how Pope Gregory the Great made a speech in 591 A.D. where he lumped together the actions of three women mentioned in the Gospels and incorrectly identified an unnamed woman prostitute as Mary Magdalene?

Do we need to remind ourselves and each other – and anyone else who’s listening – that this erroneous view was not corrected until 1969 when the Vatican issued a “quiet retraction”? And do really we need to footnote all those sources that name Mary Magdalene as a prominent disciple and leader of one wing of the early Christian movement that promoted women's leadership? Have I reached the maximum allotment of rhetorical questions for one sermon yet? I think we get my point.

So let’s shift to some good news – some breaking news – from the Vatican. Recognizing St. Mary Magdalene's role as the first to witness Christ's resurrection and as a "true and authentic evangelizer" – the Vatican announced that St. Mary Magdalene’s day – July 22 – has been elevated from a memorial to a feast on the church's liturgical calendar. The decree was entitled "Apostolorum Apostola" or "Apostle of the Apostles” -- and in his comments, Pope Francis said (and I quote)

"It is right that the liturgical celebration of this woman has the same level of feast given to the celebration of the apostles in the general Roman calendar and highlights the special mission of this woman who is an example and model for every woman in the church."

Yes, it is good news. Yes, it is a step forward. Yes, it is one of those incremental victories we celebrate on the way to achieving audacious goals.

But let’s be clear: “same level of feast given to the celebration of the apostles” is not the same as “feast of an apostle” – and so while it is a step forward it is also a step short of equal status for Mary Magdalene. And why -- I couldn't help wonder -- is her example and model for every “woman in the church” and not for everyone in the church?

Bottom line: Separate but equal is never equal and sexism is still a thing.
Ergo the Gospel According to Barbara:

Let there be peace among us, and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression.

And in order to do that we have to be fish who know we’re wet. And in order to explain that, let me tell you a story. It comes from one of those mandated-by-the-diocese continuing education days that happened to be led by Michael Bamberger – an openly heterosexual, white, male, Episcopal priest – who began by talking about the changes he's seen in his life in the church.

“Something I've had to learn is that men are mostly clueless about the inherent power their gender gives them,” said Michael. “And was something it took me a while to learn. Because I grew up in a church where that power was so unquestioned – where the sexism was so normative – that there was literally no awareness of the power differential. And that is where the danger is: it's when we don't recognize the power we have."

Those would be the fish don't know they're wet.

"What is or is not offensive," said Michael went on to say "is determined by the person who's been offended. Not by the person with the power to offend.

And in order to make this church not just a safe place but a healthy place, we need to continue to attend trainings like these to recognize the power we don’t know we have. We have to change our behavior and – in some cases -- to make amends to those we've offended by abusing the power we didn't know we had."

“Abusing the power we didn’t know we had” is what happens when we’re so busy enjoying the privilege of being fish we don’t know we’re wet. It is what happens when we do not realize that we’re swimming in the water of sexism. And racism. And classism, heterosexism, xenocentrism, Christianism, ageism and ableism … to name just some.

And what happens when we abuse the power we don’t know we have?

A very quick biblical case in point is Mary’s encounter with the Risen Lord in today’s Gospel. It is the first resurrection story in John’s Gospel. The second is when Jesus appears to the disciples in the upper room when Thomas is out running an errand. The third is when Jesus appears to the disciples in the upper room when Thomas is BACK in the room. The fourth is when Jesus appears to the disciples on the lakeshore.

And yet at the conclusion of the lakeshore story, John 21:14 reads: “This was now the third time Jesus appeared after he was raised from the dead.” So either John couldn’t count … or the appearance to Mary … the “apostle of the apostles” didn’t count because she was a woman. I’ll let you do the math.

Over and over again women who have dared to point out that our scriptural record came to us from spiritual ancestors who were like fish oblivious to the water of systemic sexism they swam in are accused of “playing the woman card” – or worse. Historically that is how the voices of women have been silenced, marginalized and devalued. It’s as ancient as the disciples who dismissed the women who first proclaimed the resurrection and as recent as a conversation about unexamined male privilege that ended with “I’m not privileged. My parents were working class people.”

And of course it doesn’t stop with sexism.

People of color who name the racial inequality that infects our nation are accused of “fomenting racial division.” Historically that is how white privilege works – abusing the power of that privilege by refusing to acknowledge that it exists. It is as old as the sin of racism that has been part of our DNA even before we were a nation and it is as current as the blog posts and twitter feeds tearing down those to dare to speak the truth that Black Lives Matter.

And there it is. The reason we say #BlackLivesMatter is because we are fish who know we are wet.

The reason we say Black Lives Matter is because we know that all lives matter — and until we become a nation that acts like all lives matter equally the #BlackLivesMatter sign on our Quad Lawn reminds us that we will swim in the water of racism until we become the change we want to see – the change that will make liberty and justice for all not just a pledge we make but a reality we live.

And – if we’re truthful --sometimes it's just too hard. Sometimes it’s just much trouble. Sometimes it seems that nothing will change anyway so why bother. And so sometimes -- rather than drown in the water of oppression – we choose silence and let the fish in charge continue to swim about – continuing to be clueless about the fact that they're wet.

My brothers and sisters, the time for that option has long since passed. In the words of William Sloan Coffin, “The world is too dangerous for anything but truth and too small for anything but love.”

And you do not need me to remind you this morning Just how dangerous our world is. Still reeling from the Orlando tragedy last month we struggled last week with the violence across the nation and the oh-so-close to home shooting death of a four year old on his porch in West Altadena. This week alone we have seen another unspeakable tragedy in Nice and a violent attempt to overthrow the government of Turkey.

And between the time I printed out this sermon and drove to church this morning we have the news of another shooting tragedy involving police officers in Baton Rouge. It just goes on and on.

The truth we have this morning for our world too dangerous for anything but truth is this truth from the Gospel According to Barbara:

Let there be peace among us, and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression.

Let us be fish who know we are wet. And let us find allies in this struggle to build a church that isn't just safe but to build a church that's healthy; to build a nation where freedom isn’t just for some but for all; to build a world where the human race becomes the human family God created it to be.

Let us become a family where nobody is shamed into silence for speaking their experience and where those with power use it to liberate others – not to leverage more power for themselves.

Let us become that "Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven."

We had a glimpse of that last week when in response to the tragic violence in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis and Dallas we suspended our ‘business as usual’ and took our silent prayers into the streets in witness to our commitment to be the change we want to see. The veritable rainbow of women, men and children of all ages – led by our amazing youth with streamers streaming, flags waving and signs held high– were a powerful antidote to the corrosive cultural rhetoric that only serves to stoke fear and anger in our nation.

And this week Mary Glasspool – our former Bishop Suffragan here in the Diocese of Los Angeles and now an assisting bishop in the Diocese of New York – offered another glimpse of how to be that change we want to see … sharing in her weekly email this 1983 quote from poet Audre Lorde.
There is no hierarchy of oppression. I cannot afford the luxury of fighting one form of oppression only. I cannot afford to believe that freedom from intolerance is the right of one particular group. And I cannot afford to choose between the fronts upon which I must battle these forces of discrimination, wherever they appear to destroy me. And when they appear to destroy me, it will not be long before they appear to destroy you.
On Tuesday I will fly to Portland, Oregon to represent All Saints at the memorial service of one of the wettest fishes I’ve ever known: Former Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning.

Elected in 1985 he famously said “This church of ours is open to all — there will be no outcasts — the convictions and hopes of all will be honored.”

During the twelve years he led the Episcopal Church as Presiding Bishop he welcomed women into the House of Bishops, supported LGBT inclusion during the height of the AIDS crisis, and lobbied aggressively for civil rights and against the nuclear arms race. He opposed apartheid in South Africa, supported women’s reproductive justice and raised awareness about the suffering of the Palestinian people. He used his power to advocate for those on the margins – to liberate others rather than to leverage more power for himself.

For Ed Browning, there was no hierarchy of oppression – there was just the Gospel mandate to love your neighbor as yourself. In a world too dangerous for anything but truth he lived his life aligned with the same love Mary Magdalene – Apostle of the Apostles – proclaimed as she bore witness to the Risen Lord … a witness that survived down through the ages in spite of the best efforts of an institutional church dominated for millennia by fish who didn’t know they were wet.

Yes, we live in perilous times. The challenges we face are daunting, real and often overwhelming. But if we claim the Gospel of Barbara as our own we will become fish who know we are wet. And we will change the world.

Let there be peace among us, and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression. Amen.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

#StopTheHate Sunday @AllSaintsChurch

    We pray this morning for peace, for an end to violence in all forms.

    • We pray for Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. And for all those people of color who have died at as the result of unnecessary and unjustified deadly force.
    • For their grieving families: for children who have lost their parents, and parents who grieve for their murdered children.
    • We pray for Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa. And for all those police officers who risk their lives to protect and serve our communities.
    • For communities who live in fear and despair, for the suffering, the poor, the marginalized.
    • For the courage and commitment to move beyond prayer to action, beyond tears to resolve, beyond weariness to true and lasting change.
    • We pray for righteousness to flow like a mighty river, until peace fills the earth as the waters fill the sea.