Monthly Archives: April 2012

What I Wish #ExCoun Said

If you are an Episcopalian and follow Churchwide news, then you have heard that the budget (link) has a few problems–program areas getting slashed, numbers not adding up, canonical mandates not being followed. These have been well discussed at length by others (quotes and more links here, here, here, and here) , and then there’s this statement from some of the people who helped put the budget out (link).

This next part will be heavy in Episcopalese for help translating see this page.

The Budget Process

ExCoun has to submit a budget to GC. To do that, ExCoun sends PB&F a “General Church Program and a detailed budget for the year following the next GC.” (Everything in quotes is language from the Canons.) Four months before GC, ExCoun has to send the proposed budget and planned asking out to various people–Bishops and Provincial Presidents. This information must also be submitted to GC.
Before the third day prior to adjornment, PB&F will report to a Joint Session of GC on the proposed Budget.
The budget we have before us and which we have been reacting to, is the budget ExCoun is canonically required to disperse 4 months before GC.

Executive Council met this past week in Salt Lake City and, rightfully, the budget was on the list of things they discussed. At the end of the meeting they released this statement and the attached memo which was sent to PB&F (link).

First, because I notice these things, the Easter greeting goes “Alleluia! Christ is Risen.” “The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!” But that is the very definition of adiaphora.

More importantly, “extreme disappointment” and a memo to PB&F do not begin to address the problems of the proposed budget.

Let me be clear. I think that the proposed budget has multiple problems. First is, of course, the numbers. Second is the system that created this budget. Third is what the proposed budget has created.

Right now, all I want to do is talk about the third problem. The first two problems are significant and need to be addressed, but I do not believe that this is possible until we address the third problem.

Succinctly, I believe that the proposed budget created fear, hurt, and a sense of betrayal. Fear that The Episcopal Church may collapse. Hurt that our Church, as described in the proposed budget and the system which created it, is so out of touch with us. Betrayal about the lack of pastoral or clear leadership since the budget came out.  All of which is being expressed as anger.

This Church, my Church, which I love, for which I work, which I joyfully represent, which has ordained me, did not seem to understand that this undercuts things that are essential to me having stayed in the Church.  And then as people looked closer, things made less sense (The Rev Susan Snook (link) has some excellent posts about this).  How can my elected leaders not understand my hopes, dreams, and goals for the growth and flourishing of this Church I love were eliminated in the proposed budget?  And all of this during an already shaky time for all established Churches.

So where do we go from here?

I have been in enough analogous situations to know that no one person is to blame, and I’m not looking to assign blame. I want someone to assume responsibility. I have been a leader long enough to know that sometimes the leader’s job is to be the one who says, “I’m sorry.”

So here is what I wish Executive Council had said. Not just to each other. Not just to PB&F. To me. To those of us who are deputies to General Convention. To those of us who care about The Episcopal Church and our future.

We know that the proposed budget was wildly inaccurate. We have heard the anxiety and concern these inaccuracies caused across the Church. This outpouring of concern is a result of the love and dedication people have to the mission and ministry of The Episcopal Church. We are invested in and working towards (and more detail here would be nice) passing an accurate, balanced budget at General Convetion. We apologize for the anxiety and hurt that the proposed budget caused. The Executive Council is committed to the mission and ministry of The Episcopal Church.

Right now, I have trouble, in good conscience, welcoming people into the Church which proposed this budget. A Church with leadership behaving this way. In these past few months my experience has not been one of welcoming or leadership. I am concerned about being forgotten and abandoned.

Let me be clear, I am an Episcopalian. I’d like to be more joyful about that today. I’d like to be so excited about how our budget describes what we are about in our mission and ministry that I cannot wait to tell others. I prayerfully look forward to that day.

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Understanding Incarnation

I was as unprepared as any of us ever are; I was as prepared as all of us are. A seminarian doing CPE, serving the sick, the dying, the struggling.

In CPE, sometimes you stumble across people who needs you and sometimes someone (usually a nurse) will page you for a patient. I don’t remember how I wound up sitting up with one woman. But I remember her.

I remember her story and her tears. I remember the depth of her insanely tragic grief. Of the loss so huge it consumed both of us.
And so I sat there with this woman, held her hand, prayed with her, and prayed silently for the words I needed, she needed. I sat, I listened, I prayed.

I don’t know if my faith, my presence helped her, but I know that her grief, her impossible, tragic grief leached into my life. When I hear similar stories, I remember her, I remember that grief, and I still mourn. I mourn, for her and for all  loss like hers. For all grief too big for words.

And I remember.  I remember the nurse’s note that she left the Hospital happy. I remember the words that did come, informed by study but inspired by the Holy Spirit, when I was asked how God fit into all of this.

“I find it comforting that the God who sits in Heaven walked on this earth as Jesus and had dusty feet, stubbed toes, and knew suffering.   And that the Jesus who walked on this earth sits in Heaven.”

It was the first time that I had been asked to express complex theology on the spot, for someone who needed An Answer, not a conversation or a “let’s have coffee later and talk.”  It was one of the first times I saw, raw and up close, that theology matters.  Understanding Jesus’ relationship to us, suffering, and God made a difference.

That answer, my answer, might not be The Answer, your answer.  It isn’t perfectly parsed out with every term defined for theologians; it doesn’t address the how of the mystery.  But for me, and I pray for the woman I was talking to, it brought theology into the grief, made God explicitly present in that room with us.

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Easter 2, 2012

The lessons for Easter 2 can be found at this link: Easter 2 Lessons. I worked most closely with John 20:19-31.

Recovery and Resurrection. How we learn to love like God.

Listen: Easter 2, 2012

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Easter, 2012

The lessons for the Easter Vigil can be found at this link: Easter Vigil lessons.

“Alleluia! Christ is risen!” also means “Everything has changed”

Listen: Easter, 2012

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Good Friday, 2012

The lessons for Good Friday can be found at this link: Good Friday lessons.

Good Friday is about love. May our actions be so filled with the same love.

(Due to continued technical difficulties, this is nearly what I preached at Nativity’s Good Friday service.)

Lisen: Good Friday, 2012

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Maundy Thursday, 2012

The lessons for Maundy Thursday can be found at this link: Maundy Thursday lessons.

Eating Nourishes us. Communion is a feast.

(Due to some technical difficulties, this is nearly what I preached at Nativity’s Maundy Thursday service.)

Listen: Maundy Thursday, 2012

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Holy Week and Memories

Holy Week is hard.  That may seem an overly simple statement for a priest to make.  After all, Easter, Resurrection is at the center of our faith.  And this week leading up to it is full: full of weighty symbols, full of meaning, full of Church, full of work.  More sermons to write, more liturgies to plan, more prayers to pray.

We all walk through Holy Week differently.  We bring our own expectations and memories with us.

For me, it’s not just the Good Friday in college where my own personal experience of Easter came early as I felt this indescribable joy while walking to Church and watching the early signs of spring.  Or the first Easter Vigil I went to and begged a ride home from.  Or all of the other memory slivers that pile together.

My memories of one Holy Week are bold against all of that.

My third brain surgery occurred 12 days before Easter.  Surgery itself went well and I was, all things considered, healing quickly.

But I remember sitting in the Chapel on Maundy Thursday knowing that, had I had the energy, I wouldn’t have been able to access the footwashing stations.

I remember watching the Chapel doors swing close from my window across the street, because I was still too tired to cross the street and attend Good Friday services.

I remember sitting in the pews for the Easter Vigil, amazed at the sounds I was hearing.  Singing like nothing I’d ever experienced.

Bound up in these memories, still, Holy Week is about alienation and newness.

Perhaps these memories sit more fully, more weightily during Holy Week because here at the conclusion of a season that begins, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return” and ends with betrayal, denial, loneliness, and death (before the Easter Resurrection), there is almost space for these sorts of memories.

Here is the Jesus who doesn’t miraculously heal, but stumbles and needs Simon of Cyrene.
Here is Jesus as alone and unsure in Gethsemane.
Here horrific, painful events are unfolding and God’s action is to wait. Not to be absent, but not to intervene.

Here these memories are not so strange.  Here these parts, and all of their echoes, of my story fit in.

Holy Week is hard.

(Also published at Provoketive.)

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Palm Sunday, 2012

The lessons for Palm Sunday can be found at this link: Palm Sunday lessons. I worked most closely with the Gospel readings starting in Mark 11.

The week started so well. And then, well…. It’s a little bit like life, isn’t it?

(There will be a few moments of silence before the sermon starts. Thank you for your patience.)

Listen: Palm Sunday, 2012

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