Hopeful and Open Christianity at Cal

Come find us at University Chapel - the Episcopal/Lutheran Campus Ministry. 2425 College Ave, at the corner of Haste and College. Our community is composed of undergraduates, grad students, recent grads in the Episcopal and Lutheran Service programs and other young adult seekers.
H.I.V.’s Grip on the American South : The New Yorker
Exactly 50 years ago today, Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law. Here is a beautifully reported story on an important, ongoing development in the pursuit of civil rights in the south. 
What has God got to do with HIV in the American South?

H.I.V.’s Grip on the American South : The New Yorker
Exactly 50 years ago today, Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law. Here is a beautifully reported story on an important, ongoing development in the pursuit of civil rights in the south.
What has God got to do with HIV in the American South?

From the BCA for the ACB

A word on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s statements

The Archbishop of Canterbury has made public statements that reveal at best a lamentable naiveté and at worst both homophobia and colonial thinking. Archbishop Justin Welby has claimed that the Church of England — if it marries gay and lesbian people in England — is responsible for the deaths of homosexuals in Africa.

The archbishop was shown the mass grave of Christians from a village in Africa, killed, he was told because their neighbors did not want to become gay by association with people whose religion supported rights for LGBT people. It is clear that the archbishop was shocked by the brutality behind this mass murder and the very scale of the killing. I too am overwhelmed by it. In the face of tragedies larger than a human can take in, I think we often go to answers and solutions that we know, that are familiar. Here, I think the archbishop fell back on a solution that was already unjust, but familiar to him: retrench around marriage as only between a woman and a man. Don’t inflame violent people further.

Welby’s argument is parallel to saying that the segregation laws in the United States that obtained until the mid-60s and the disenfranchisement of women in the United States until the 20th Century should have both been continued if someone claimed that blacks and women in other countries would be endangered by moves towards greater justice here.

In a very simple world, with very few variables perhaps we could credit archbishop Welby’s reasoning. If the only factor in the safety of African LGBT people was the maintenance of unjust laws in England and the United States, I hope we would all pause to absorb this and see what could be done about it. But our world is an exceedingly complex place and the archbishop’s simplistic logic only privileges the colonial power position Great Britain once held with respect to her now-vanished empire — the Africans pay close attention to everything the center of the empire thinks and does.

Instead, Africa is a continent of countries, each with its own history apart from and intertwined with former European empire masters. Surely there are at least as many factors at work within Africa itself influencing the safety of LGBT people (and Christians in general, as Welby argues) that counterbalance whatever focus Africans may have on England.

The archbishop could be helpfully involved in Africa on behalf of the safety of vulnerable LGBT people if he wished to be, and in ways that did not continue the oppression of LGBT people in the United Kingdom. He could support the ministry of retired Bishop Christopher Senyonjo in Uganda, a courageous and nearly lone voice in the religious leadership of that country. Archbishop Welby could speak clearly to the Churches in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria among others about their open support of legislation that criminalizes even the very being of LGBT people.

If I am right and empire thinking underlies the archbishop’s remarks, his proposed way forward — continue to oppress LGBT people in the UK — will fail to keep Africans safe for this reason: if Africa is watching the UK as closely as the archbishop would have us all believe, then they will not miss that the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion is on the side of continued second-class citizenship for LGBT people.

Twice in the hour-long phone-in program in which the archbishop made his remarks, Archbishop Welby used the modifier “incredibly” to describe how the Church must attend to the witness of the LGBT community — listen incredibly carefully and be incredibly conscious. To remember a great line from The Princess Bride, I’m not sure the archbishop knows what incredible attentiveness means.

We should remember that the archbishop has made his views on same-gender marriage clear. In an address to the House of Lords he reiterated, as he did in the radio interview most recently that marriage is a sacred institution reserved for heterosexuals. In fact, in this most recent interview theGuardian wrote that the archbishop did not want LGBT people to be treated with any greater severity than adulterous heterosexuals are treated. The core idea here if anyone cares to look closely is that same-gender relationships are sinful.

Today, local media in the diocese I serve showed one of my priests — a partnered, gay man — being led away by law enforcement officers for an act of civil disobedience on behalf of immigrants in danger of deportation. Such acts on the side of justice are, I’m happy to say, commonplace in this diocese, done all the time by gay and straight folks. Faithful, rather than sinful seems a better word to describe this priest and the many like him here.

Archbishop Welby asserts that marriage should be only between a man and a woman, and says that scripture supports his position. I would hope for a better reader of scripture in the spiritual head of our Church. Let me point to this coming Sunday’s gospel, the raising of Lazarus from the dead, in the Gospel of John as a good place to look for guidance on the issue of the safety of Christians, both straight and LGBT in Africa and elsewhere.

Jesus is so deeply moved — by the death of his friend, by the oppression of his people, by the suffering of the world — that he risks everything to go to the cave where Lazarus is buried to raise him back to life. Thomas says, “Let us go with him and die.” In order to raise Lazarus from the dead Jesus has to go right into the turbulent political waters in and around Jerusalem, where his life is danger, and where he will shortly be betrayed, tortured and killed.

This courage and compassion should be my guide, and I suggest our guide as we identify with Christ, as Christians. There are other scripture passages that might point us to how to view the question of same-gender marriage; the raising of Lazarus from the dead gives us guidance on how we should act when we confront injustice, evil and sin.

+MHA

_____

The Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus is the eighth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California.

Source: http://bishopmarc.typepad.com/blog/2014/04/a.html# (accessed on April 8, 2014)

Brothers, Sisters, Sons & Daughters: The Film (Plus, Shop for Equality!)

Yesterday was International Transgender Visibility Day.

Let’s get a little artsy-fartsy with Barneys New York here. They did a good thing to unleash more transgender visibility earlier this year. 

View the film. Look through the stunning pictures. Meet the transgender models. See and be seen. 

What is the Gospel about? Rachel Held Evans chimes in on the World Vision reaction.

On the World Vision Reaction: Some Bad News, Some Good News, and Some Ideas 

So here’s what happened…

On Monday afternoon, Richard Stearns, president of the Christian humanitarian organization World Vision, announced that his organization would not be taking a position on the divisive issue of same-sex marriage. The charity would, however, permit the employment of gay Christians in legal same-sex marriages. 

Stearns told Christianity Today: 

"It’s easy to read a lot more into this decision than is really there. This is not an endorsement of same-sex marriage. We have decided we are not going to get into that debate. Nor is this a rejection of traditional marriage, which we affirm and support….We’re not caving to some kind of pressure. We’re not on some slippery slope. There is no lawsuit threatening us. There is no employee group lobbying us. This is not us compromising. It is us deferring to the authority of churches and denominations on theological issues. We’re an operational arm of the global church, we’re not a theological arm of the church.”

Across the Web, many evangelicals responded by declaring their intentions to pull their financial support from World Vision over the matter.  Denny Burk of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary tweeted “Farewell, World Vision.”   Trevin Wax at The Gospel Coalition wrote a blog post placing all the blame for pulled child sponsorships on gay and lesbian people and their supporters, saying he “grieves for the children” who will lose access to basic necessities over the issue, before including single parents and divorcees among those who are destroying the lives of children around the world.  He posted a picture of a crying black child at the top of his post for effect, reinforcing his message that it’s the fault of “those sinners over there” that evangelicals have been forced to deprive that hungry child of food. 

Let me repeat that sequence of events: 

1) World Vision announces it will not take a position on debates around gay marriage, but will employ people in same-sex marriages in its U.S. offices. 

2) In protest, some evangelicals threaten to halt their current funding for food, water, clothing, and shelter to children and communities sponsored by World Vision. 

3) Evangelical spokespeople say they “weep for the children” who will suffer as a result of pulled sponsorships, and blame gay and lesbian people (and divorcees and single parents) for the actions of evangelicals. 

It’s as ridiculous as it sounds. 

And it puts into stark, unsettling relief just how out-of-control the evangelical obsession with homosexuality has become. Organizations don’t get “farewelled” for hiring divorcees. People don’t get kicked out of their churches for struggling with pride or for not wearing head coverings when they pray.  (See “Everyone’s a Biblical Literalist Until You Bring Up Gluttony.”) But when it comes to homosexuality, Trevin Wax and many others have decided “the gospel is at stake.” 

I have to ask: Since when? Since when has the reality that Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again ever been threatened by two men committing their lives to one another? Since when have the historic Christian creeds, recognized for centuries as the theological articulation of Orthodoxy, included a word about the issue of gay marriage? Since when have my gay and lesbian friends—many of whom are committed Christians—ever kept me from loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and loving my neighbor as myself? Since when has a single interpretation of the biblical passages in question here been deemed the only one faithful Christians can have? 

The gospel is at stake only insofar as we make one’s position on same-sex marriage a part of it. The gospel is threatened, not by gay people getting married, but by Christians saying support or opposition to gay marriage is an essential part of the gospel when it’s not. 

Furthermore, the notion that the way to “punish” World Vision is to withdraw support from its efforts to feed, clothe, heal, comfort, rescue, and shelter “the least of these” is so contrary to the teachings of Jesus—particularly Matthew 25:31-46—it’s hard to know where to start.  

I’m a longtime World Vision supporter and I’ve seen firsthand the effectiveness of its work, particularly child sponsorships. Like my friend Nish, I beg Christians not to drop their sponsorships or monthly giving to World Vision because they don’t like the idea of gay people working for the organization. (If you’re having second thoughts about that, just imagine writing a letter to your sponsored child explaining exactly why you can’t help him or his community anymore.)

I’m always careful not to equate opposition to gay marriage with hate. But the singling out and scapegoating of gay and lesbian people that’s happening here is deeply troubling to me. When Christians declare that they would rather withhold aid from people who need it than serve alongside gay and lesbian people helping to provide that aid, something’s very, very wrong. It might not be hate, but it is a nefarious sort of stigmatizing, and it’s wrong. 

Finally, all this overdramatic “farewelling” over non-essential issues is getting tiresome. It’s shutting the door of the Kingdom in people’s faces. It’s tying up heavy burdens and placing them on people’s backs. It’s straining gnats and swallowing camels. It’s playing the gatekeeper with smug, self-righteous pride when it is God who decides who comes to the table, God who makes the guest list, God who opens the doors the Kingdom.

Perhaps the greatest irony of all is that in rejecting the poor, the hungry, the marginalized, the outcast, and “the least of these,” these brothers and sisters have essentially “farewelled” Christ Himself. What a lonely world they have created! 

But now, the good news…

The good news is that the Gospel isn’t a coalition to delineate and defend, but an expansive, worldwide movement that knows no political or geographic boundaries. It is a like a tree that is growing toward the sky, with enough branches for all the birds of the air to find a place to nest. It’s like a hidden pearl, like wheat growing among tares, like mustard seeds splitting beneath the soil.  It’s alive and it’s growing and it won’t be stopped.  

The good news is that God makes the guest list to the heavenly banquet—not you , not me, not Denny Burk, not John Piper. 

The good news is that thousands of World Vision staff from around the world will continue their good work today - building wells, providing life-saving vaccinations, caring for Syrian refugees, partnering with communities to develop business and agricultural opportunities, lifting families out of poverty, and  feeding, clothing, and sheltering vulnerable children. 

The good news—and I want those of you who are discouraged to hear this— is that things are changing. As loud as these legalistic voices may seem right now, you will notice that they are often the same voices, over and over again. What I hear every day on the road and in my office is something different. It’s a freedom song, and it’s coming from thousands of pastors, writers, parents, teachers, and Christ-followers from all walks of life from all around the country and world. My desk is cluttered with books arguing for a more compassionate and inclusive way forward. Where I once scoured the internet for articles in support of women’s equality and LGBT equality, they are now plentiful, overwhelming. Letters detailing changed hearts and minds clog up my inbox. Things are changing. Hearts are softening.  People are listening to their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters and engaging Scripture in fresh, yet faithful, ways. And even when we disagree, there is a  growing desire to drop our weapons, stop waging war, and start washing feet. 

So what do we do now? 

Well, a few things come to mind: 

1)    Let’s remember that we’re talking about real people here—real sponsored children, real World Vision employees, real Christians on both sides of the issue. Let’s pray for Richard Stearns, for the few employees who are caught in the middle of this and who must be experiencing a profound sense of isolation and sadness over how people are responding to their presence, and for the children, families and communities that are currently benefiting from the good work of World Vision. And let’s pray too for our enemies, real or perceived, that we can love them better in the midst of differences. 

2)     Let’s speak up. The singling out, bullying and scapegoating of gay and lesbian people by the Christian community really must stop. It has gotten totally out of hand. Let’s push back on this idea that gay marriage is a “gospel issue” and that we must break fellowship with those with whom we disagree. And let’s take responsibility for our giving or lack of giving instead of blaming it on other people. 

And let’s talk. Michael Hidalgo offers up some great conversation-starters here

3)   If you are so inclined, consider sponsoring a child or making a one-time donation to World Vision, to help compensate for the funding and sponsorship being pulled.  I’d love to see us partner with my friends Kristen Howerton and Nish Weiseth to help care for the children and communities left in a bind because of pulled funding over this issue. World Vision is doing important work right now with Syrian refugees, for example, and it would be a shame to see that work suffer.

Source: http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/world-vision (accessed on March 25, 2014)

The season of Lent calls us to be vulnerable, to forgive, and to be forgiven. Brene Brown’s research and public narrative on the power of vulnerability is worth listening to and wrestling with. 

We are not what we did. We are not what was done to us. We are beloved children of God. 

Forgive and be forgiven.

Inside the Cloister: Abbie Reese’s ‘Dedicated to God’ : The New Yorker

Inside the Cloister: Abbie Reese’s ‘Dedicated to God’ : The New Yorker

The 2014 Lent Message from the Presiding Bishop

The reality is that the season of Lent, which Christians have practiced for so many centuries, is about the same kind of yearning for greater light in the world, whether you live in the Northern Hemisphere or the Southern Hemisphere. 

The word “Lent” means “lengthen” and it’s about the days getting longer.  The early Church began to practice a season of preparation for those who would be baptized at Easter, and before too long other members of the Christian community joined those candidates for baptism as an act of solidarity. 

It was a season during which Christians and future Christians learned about the disciplines of the faith - prayer and study and fasting and giving alms, sharing what they have. 

But the reality is that, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere, the lengthening days were often times of famine and hunger, when people had used up their winter food stores and the spring had not yet produced more food to feed people.  Acting in solidarity with those who go hungry is a piece of what it means to be a Christian.  To be a follower of Jesus is to seek the healing of the whole world. 

And Lent is a time when we practice those disciplines as acts of solidarity with the broken and hungry and ill and despised parts of the world.

I would invite you this Lent to think about your Lenten practice as an exercise in solidarity with all that is - with other human beings and with all of creation.  That is most fundamentally what Jesus is about. He is about healing and restoring that broken world. 

So as you enter Lent, consider how you will live in solidarity with those who are hungry, or broken, or ill in one way or another.

May you have a blessed Lent this year, and may it yield greater light in the world.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori

Presiding Bishop and Primate

The Episcopal Church