Posts Tagged With: Episcopal

When the Church is Dangerous

Reflecting on predators in the Church

This week was the third time. 

The other day I was talking with local clergy colleagues about how society has made safety into an idol.  We discussed how the Gospel calls us to make sacrifices and take risks.  That our lives, even apart from the Gospel, can never be made completely safe.  To live is to risk.  To live should not be to be harmed or abused.  Jesus calls us to take risks and not to harm one another.  We too often fail at both.  The risks Jesus calls us to are to be made willingly, knowing what is being risked or sacrificed and knowing that nothing can separate us from the love of God.

This week was the third time in 20 years of Church leadership (I’m both not that young now and was that young when I started), a cleric I know stands formally accused of sexual misconduct.*  Sexual misconduct by any one is an affront to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Abuse of all kinds, and especially sexual abuse or misconduct, is the stripping of another person’s privacy, bodily autonomy, and leaves lasting harm to a person’s ability to form loving and trusting relationships.  Instances where a cleric is the offender  are also a horrendous abuse of the trust invested in clergy.  I am grieved at this news and feel horrible that my colleague (from another diocese and country and still my brother in Christ) has added to others’ challenge in finding what I have in my Church, a place where it is easier to see Jesus.

Three times in 20 years is a little more than once every seven years.  The cognitive dissonance between knowing perpetrators are usually someone you would not suspect and that someone having a name, a face, and fond memories does not get easier.  I did not know or suspect and was shocked to learn the truth.  There is a temptation to call them monsters but I will resist it.  Portraying sexual predators as monsters is part of how we make it easier to fail to notice and prevent the lasting harm of the actions of people we usually would not suspect.  Even more, they too are beloved children of God,  though they have committed horrible sins and need to face the full consequences, legal and ecclesiastical, of their actions. 

I want to close with a promise that we can make at least the Church free from this kind of sin.  I want the Eucharist and the sacraments to be able to draw us close enough to God that we are all transformed into people who do not harm others.  Barring that, I want policies like those in The Episcopal Church’s Safeguarding God’s Children to be sufficient protection.

I can’t make that promise. 

We can make ourselves and our spaces safer.  RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) has information about staying as safe as possible, noticing warning signs, and consent here (link).  This is my favourite article on how teaching consent (link).  Please ask your Church leadership what they are doing to prevent sexual misconduct.  

I pray for the victims.  I do not know their names but, from other survivors of sexual abuse who have courageously shared their journeys, I am aware that healing is a long and seemingly endless journey. 

I assure you that the God who made us, who has always loved us, allows nothing to be beyond God’s love—even when we cannot fathom the possibility of such love. 

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The sheep outside, Easter 4 2017

The Good Shepherd cares about the sheep left outsideMorsels & Stories: I read from the introduction to Rabbi Kushner’s reflection on psalm 23, The Lord is my Shepherd.

 

Sermon:  I remember a story we read about a month ago about Samuel heading off to anoint the boy out in the field with the sheep.

 

The lessons can be found by clicking here.  I worked most closely with John 10:1-10.  The story about Samuel is from 1 Samuel 16:1-13.

Listen:

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Ash Wednesday 2017

ash-wednesday-2017The Gospel for Ash Wednesday begins with, perhaps, the most Anglican verse, “Beware of practicing your piety before others.”  But Jesus is getting at a lot more than where we pray.

 

 

The lessons for Ash Wednesday can be found by clicking here.  I worked most closely with Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

 

 

Listen:

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Salty, February 2017

saltMorsels & Stories: I talked about why and how we clean up after communion.

 

Sermon: Why salt isn’t like other spices.

 

 

The lessons for today can be found by clicking here.  I worked most closely with Matthew 5:13-20.

 

Listen:

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Scruffy Dogs in God’s Kingdom, Jan 2017

scruffy-dogsMorsels & Stories: We took some time to brainstorm all of the ways the Holy Spirit is active in St Peter’s.

 

Sermon: I tell a story about my dog, a stray dog, and the odd ways the Holy Spirit works.

 

The lessons for today can be found by clicking here.  I worked most closely with John 1:29-42.

 

Listen:

 

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Brave Lambs and Trustworthy Lions, Advent 2 2016

copyright John August Swanson Purchase prints and cards at http://catholic-resources.org/Art/Swanson.htm

copyright John August Swanson
Purchase prints and cards at http://catholic-resources.org/Art/Swanson.htm

Morsels & Stories: I talk about Matthew 3:3.  Or Isaiah 40:3.  And the comma that differentiates them. (Spoiler Matthew is quoting Isaiah in this verse.)

 

 

Sermon:  How brave must the lamb be to walk in to lie down with the lion?  How trustworthy must the lion be to let the lamb live?

 

 

The lessons can be found by clicking here.  I worked most closely with Isaiah 11:1-10.

 

Listen:

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City of Peace, Nov 2016

%d7%99%d7%a8%d7%95%d7%a9%d7%9c%d7%99%d7%9dMorsels & Stories:  I read a short excerpt from Glennon Doyle Melton’s memoir Love Warrior.  You can find her blog here.

 

Sermon: I join Isaiah in talking about Jerusalem, (ירושלים in Hebrew), the City of Peace.

 

The lessons for today can be found by clicking here.  I worked most closely with Isaiah 65: 17-25.

 

Listen:

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The Widow’s Justice; God’s Justice, October 2016

gods-justiceMorsels & Stories: I read from The Spy on Noah’s Ark.  Deborah’s story can be found in Judges 4 and 5.

 

Sermon: It’s the complex parallel of the Unjust Judge or the Persistent Widow.  We consider some of the levels of meaning in the story and ask about God’s justice.

 

The lessons for today can be found by clicking here.  I worked most closely with Luke 18:1-8.

 

Listen:

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The Potter’s Flower Miracles, Sept 2016

miracle of a flowerMorsels & Stories: I talked about one interpretation of “the sacrifice of praise” and mention a favourite CS Lewis quote.

Sermon: I tackle Jeremiah in the potter’s house.  What doesn’t it mean? How might we listen better to my favourite grouchy prophet?

(The picture is something I mention in the sermon.)

The lessons for today can be found by clicking here.  I worked most closely with Jeremiah 18:1–11.

Listen:

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St Peter’s Feast Day, June 2016

St Peter'sWe transferred St Peter (and St Paul’s) feast day, which is usually the 29th, to Sunday so we could celebrate.  St Peter is our patronal saint, which is a fancy way of saying our church is named after him.

As it was a special day, I put together a little quiz for Morsels & Stories and the sermon was just a few words at the end of that.

 

The lessons can be found by clicking here.

 

Listen:

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