Monday, January 19, 2009

Bishop Robinson’s Prayer for the Nation and Our Next President

A Prayer for the Nation and Our Next President, Barack Obama

By The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire

(with thanks to The Episcopal Café for its transcription)

Opening Inaugural Event
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC
January 18, 2009


Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God's blessing upon our nation and our next president.


O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…


Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.


Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.


Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic "answers" we've preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.


Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be "fixed" anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.


Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.


Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.


Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion's God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.


And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.


Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln's reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy's ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King's dream of a nation for ALL the people.


Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.


Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.


Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.


Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.


Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters' childhoods.


And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we're asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.



Thursday, January 01, 2009

Why the Venom? – A response to a question about Stand Firm in Faith

A woman who posts at StandFirminFaith wrote me twice in the comments section of an earlier entry on this blog, inquiring about my take on the animosity towards me at that web site. Here are my thoughts about the animosity expressed towards me at Stand Firm:

1. Early on Matthew Kennedy from SF launched a four part attack on a piece I wrote for The Episcopal Majority on "Falsely Accused," in which I debunked the charges of SF and others against the Episcopal Church. As I responded to Matthew's various points, the responses to me on Stand Firm took on an ugly, personal tone. That has continued.

2. From time to time I have offered on StandFirm an alternative point of view about theology, the authority of the Bible and about church property. A few have engaged in that conversation, but most have responded with close to vitriol, as though I had slimed their mothers. What has angered most has been my suggestion (it is not just mine: it has been a staple of Anglicanism for centuries!) that there are differing points of view than their own.

3. The third reason, I believe, is that whenever someone challenges anything held by what Veblen called "The True Believer," the fear and resentment level for the True Believers reaches an incredible pitch -- and rather than deal with the challenge, itself, they attempt to eradicate the source of their discomfort.

4. The fourth reason is that the SFiF site has served for many as a dumping ground for disaffection and hatred -- and when that stream of "Ain't They Awful" is interrupted, any disrupters are quickly and soundly punished. I don't think this trend has been there for the full life of SFiF, but when you read through almost any string there are recurring themes:

-- ++Katharine Jefferts Schori is a fake and a heretic;
-- Anyone leaving TEC is a hero;
-- Any moral, ethical or theological viewpoint (no matter how well grounded in historical Christianity or contemporary scholarship) that differs from the narrow outlook of the SFiF leadership is "heretical," "apostate" or of Satan.                          -- Anyone challenging the Stand Faith sense of their own orthodoxy must be annihilated and there is no limit to the sarcasm, personal attacks and wild charges used to accomplish those attacks. Witness irenic, conciliatory remarks by me and others are invariably met     by further personal attacks – their latest characterizations of me have been "heretic," "fraud," "abuser of my former parishioners," and other, worse, terms.

5. Lastly, there is the SF assumption that any of their staff and regular contributors can do no wrong in their personal attacks – and that when I, or others, draw attention to the scurrilous attacks, we must be discredited. That is often followed by references to what happens at the House of Bishops/House of Deputies list serve as "much, much worse" – a charge that is demonstrably wrong.

These, of course, are my own observations. I have had some meaningful conversations with Matt Kennedy through emails -- though he has informed me that if I showed up at his church he would not give me communion. I believe there are descriptive words for such an attitude and behavior, but they are not for me to throw around!

The voice of conservative Christianity is a voice which deserves to be heard and taken with utmost seriousness – but this use of it to tee off on those not of the same mindset is a cruel distortion of Christian conversation.

(adapted from the response at:


On The Occasion of St. Edmund’s, Elk Grove Departing TEC

I read on David Virtue's web site this morning that the vestry and others in St. Edmunds, Elk Grove, Diocese of Milwaukee had officially left the Episcopal Church – and in a gracious spirit well known in that diocese, they left behind all claim to real and personal property. When I was serving at St. Francis House, Madison a few decades ago, an old friend, Bill Ohlenhausen, drawn by the mysteries of an offshoot of the Orthodox Churches, renounced his Episcopal Church ordination and left with some parishioners to explore their spiritual journey outside the Episcopal Church.

There are a few other parishes in my old Diocese of Milwaukee that, in essence, left the Doctrine if not the Discipline of the Episcopal Church long ago. Being a Christian in the far North dominated by conservative Roman Catholics and even more conservative Lutherans (though with many mainline Lutherans) is not an easy task. There were times when it seemed like it would be easier working among Muslims! However, now, with the false promise that they will remain Anglican if they leave TEC, some are declaring what they experienced long ago.

I do not see this as a judgment against The Episcopal Church: quite the opposite. This is not about the authority of Scripture, but about whether the resurgence of a Selective Biblical Fundamentalism Bordering on Biblical Inerrancy (SBFBBI) is the true and sole legacy of the early church.

Apparently none of the clergy at St. Edmunds bothered to tell the drafters of their statement that there are at least three different notions (later doctrines) of the Atonement in the New Testament (St. E's statement seems to claim there is only one). They have also failed to inform those voting to leave that claims to be following "the faith once delivered to the saints" is, upon even cursory examination, false and even bogus.

I'm sure that in the Diocese of Milwaukee, as in other dioceses where the Selective Biblical Fundamentalists Bordering on Inerrancy have left TEC, there will be genuine compassion and care for those leaving -- but a sigh of relief that this bogus approach to the Christian faith is no longer competing with the real heirs of the apostolic faith.

What a great history the Diocese of Milwaukee has had! While pretty fiercely Anglo-Catholic for most of its history, there has always been a tolerance and an embrace of other expressions of the Christian faith. When I served as Episcopal Chaplain to the University of Wisconsin in Madison, my predecessors included Alden Kelley (the great champion of the Ministry of the Laity when the notion was just beginning to take root in the wider church), Gordon Gillette, a pacifist priest run off the campus by the full weight of the United States Navy, Dan Corrigan, later Suffragan Bishop of Colorado, a great Anglo-Catholic and later ordaining bishop of the Philadelphia 11, Carroll Simcox, one of the early influences leading to the spitting off of the right wing of TEC, Charles Boynton, later Suffragan Bishop of New York and leading Anglo-Catholic, and Arthur Lloyd, a powerful leader of the Christian Socialist movement in the American Church.

During my tenure at St. Francis House, we were the first Episcopal congregation to serve as a Sanctuary church for political refugees from El Salvador and Guatemala (with great affirmation from Bishop Wm. Wantland!). We served as a shelter for the homeless men, women and families who came our way and operated a food cooperative where homeless and down on their luck neighbors would join our students for a great evening meal when they needed it. The Integrity Chapter founded there in 1978 is still thriving – and serving men and women not only in Madison but around the State. We served a large contingent of international students, including many from Nigeria and the former Zambian Ambassador to Russia, Martin Kaunda (none of whom had the slightest qualms about the work of the Integrity Chapter in their midst). At the heart of our ministry to the university, the city and, in many instances, the State of Wisconsin, were Biblical fundamentalist, Christian socialists, ordinary lay people and non-stipendiary priests, higher ups in the Tommy Thompson administration and on and on. ANY THOUGHT THAT A THEOLOGICAL FUNDAMENTALISM WOULD DRIVE US APART WOULD HAVE PRODUCED LAUGHTER AND DERISION.

That is the Episcopal Church I love – and, like those reading this, have labored for – over years, decades and generations. How we have tolerated those who, in the name of a narrowness not known before in our spiritual heritage as Anglicans, have driven us apart is a truth that has so far eluded me.