Saturday, March 03, 2007

Praise Jesus! Now The Church of England Can Get Some of the Heat

Jonathan Petre On religion
From the blogs of 02 March 2007 Now that the dust is settling, is it possible to make any sense of what happened last Wednesday evening at the Church of England’s General Synod?
The Church’s “Parliament”, which gathered in the Church’s ivy-veined headquarters in Westminster this week, held two debates on contrasting private members’ motions on homosexuality on what was dubbed “gay” Wednesday.
The first represented a mild shift towards the liberal position by accepting that homosexuals should be included as equals in further dialogue about their place in the Church. But the outcome of the second, initiated by the Rev Paul Perkin, an evangelical from south west London, was so ambiguous that even Synod members were initially left shaking their heads in bewilderment.
Mr Perkin’s motion denounced the House of Bishops’ 2005 pastoral guidance on civil partnerships as a “recipe for confusion” by appearing to lend moral credence to such partnerships even though they are widely regarded as the equivalent of gay marriage. The guidance allows clergy to enter into civil partnerships on the proviso that they first reassure their bishop that they would abstain from sex, thereby remaining faithful to Church teaching. But the bishops have since failed to discipline anyone who has breached their guidance. The thrust of Mr Perkin’s motion was designed to expose their impotence and to try to provoke a more virile approach.
But this did not happen. The House of Bishops’ tabled a blander, more acceptable alternative, aimed at winning an endorsement of its pastoral guidelines while neutralising any significant criticism of them.
Sadly for the House of Bishops, however, its strategy also backfired. An unholy alliance of liberals and conservatives amended its amendment, removing its self-congratulatory if modest description of its own guidance as a “balanced and sensitive” attempt to square Church teaching with the law.
The final motion adopted by the Synod merely acknowledged “the diversity of views within the Church of England on whether Parliament might better have addressed the injustices affecting persons of the same sex wishing to share a common life had it done so in a way that avoided creating a legal framework with many similarities to marriage”. It also noted “the intention of the House to keep their Pastoral Statement under review”.
On the face of it, this does not seem to say very much, though it leaves the bishops’ guidance in a more than questionable state. The conservatives clearly didn’t get their way, but nor did anyone else. Surely, then, the only conclusion is that nothing really substantial had happened. However, the tone of the debate has left conservatives seething and liberals celebrating. What really angered conservative evangelicals was the way that openly gay clergy, whose behaviour appears to be in blatant breach of official Church policy, felt able to stand up in the Synod and talk publicly and unapologetically about their physical relationships with no fear of retribution. To the conservatives, no clearer indication of the bishops inability or unwillingness to act could be imagined.
One evangelical member of the Synod, Alison Ruoff, has reflected this strand of thinking in a letter to the Daily Telegraph. “For me, Wednesday in General Synod was a grim day for the Church of England,” she writes. “Although on the face of it, things might have been worse, when looking at the texts that have come from the debates.
“However, some of the speeches that were made, particularly from members of the clergy, were in many ways truly shocking. No longer is there any shame about anything. Descriptions of ‘loving partnerships’, including the mention of sex, was par for the course. The bishops sat there unmoved. Yet some 10 years ago clergy would have not only have been disciplined but ‘unfrocked’”.
Other evangelicals commented that the Church of England was now heading inexorably down the same path as the liberal Episcopal Church, a somewhat paradoxical situation given the firm stance adopted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, following Tanzania. Liberals also sensed a real shift in the Church of England’s mood on gays and civil partnerships in their direction.
InclusiveChurch, the liberal pressure group, issued a press release under the heading of “a good day for the Church of England”, saying that it hoped that the debates reflected “a new understanding and respect for differing theological positions about lesbian and gay people within and outside the Church”.
It said that the motion on civil partnerships showed that “the present arrangements are not working”, and called for same-sex blessings and the appointment of gay bishops. The Rev Giles Fraser, the liberal vicar of Putney in south London, summed up this view. “It seemed to me that the ground shifted,” he said. “There was no appetite in the Synod for going back.”
So what seemed on the surface to be a confusing stalemate might in fact have been be a paradigm shift. It will be fascinating to see how the tectonic plates collide in the coming months, and whether the House of Bishops can contain the shockwaves.
Posted by Jonathan Petre at 02 Mar 07 20:21


This great festival keeps getting bigger and better every year. The performances were extremely professional, the food was great and the folks a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the English comedian/magician/storyteller and Robin Hood.
It was also a great break from politics, union, political, anti-war and the state of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.
Quiet Waters Park is a beautiful location for the festival. It's very large, on the banks of a very large lake, the foliage and natural landscaping provides for a great atmosphere.

Friday, March 02, 2007


I'm not really sure why Bishop Frade gets the idea that General Convention said no blessings of gay unions. GC never said that. It's true that It didn't say "yes". And it still has not initiated the process for formal rites. But that is not saying "no". It acknowledged that it happens in some dioceses and our GC never has taken any steps to stop it or say that it is not allowed. After reading the sermon, I wonder what motives Bishop Frade has for keeping his Southeast Florida ladder in place. I think he doesn't want to get beat up by the right wing anymore than he already has. But it's time to move that ladder. I'm one of many in this diocese who loves Bishop Frade and will support him. He would not be going it alone, He will in fact, have much support. It's time to respect and practice our congregational vow in our prayer book:
"Will you strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being?"
Bishop Frade's Sermon given to
the Consortium of Endowed
Episcopal Parishes at
All Saints Episcopal Church
Fort Lauderdale, FL
March 1, 200
Welcome to this wonderful place that we call Southeast Florida. We hope that you will enjoy all of the wonderful things that you can do here in winter. None of them will require heaters, thermal underwear, or snow blowers.
I am indeed very fortunate to be the bishop of this tropical diocese that covers Southeast Florida from Key West in the south all the way to Hutchinson Island in the north. Sandwiched in-between we have glamorous places like Isla Morada, Ocean Reef, South Beach, Miami and Ft. Lauderdale Beach, Boca Raton, Palm Beach and Hobe Sound. It is a rough job but somebody has to do it.
But of course we are not perfect. This is the area, if you recall, that brought you all the excitement of the hanging chads, the little Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez that Janet Reno sent back to Castro at gun point; you are now in the place that OJ chose to live with all of his unused cutlery; and of course just a few days before you arrived we were able to come up with a crazy taxi driver crying judge and also plethora of paternity suits and DNA testing. Actually I am one of the few men at this time that doesn’t claim to be the biological father of Anna Nicole’s baby daughter.
But I must warn you that before you quit your jobs and decide to rush down here to enjoy all the excitement of Southeast Florida you have to be aware that this is also the area that hurricanes love to visit.
But enough talk of Southeast Florida. I want to talk to you about a ladder.A particular ladder. This ladder is found in the Holy Land. If you look at any photograph or drawing of the front of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher dating back to 1840 you will notice a ladder placed there in the window ledge a little bit to the right of the church.
My wife Diana and I just returned from our 8th pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how wonderful this experience is. But in all of my previous visits I never noticed the ladder. I asked a Christian Palestinian friend why the ladder was there. He smiled and began to tell me the story.
He claimed that there were several versions of why it was there. The ladder was part of the ‘Status Quo” and it had to remain there, even when it rots it has to be replaced with another wooden ladder. Nothing can be changed even if there is no need for a ladder anymore.
His version had it that the ladder was first introduced during the Turkish Ottoman Empire. The Muslim Turks taxed Christian clergy every time they left and entered the Holy Sepulcher church. The clergy who served the church avoided going out as rarely as possible so they set up living quarters in the Holy Sepulcher church.
The window, ladder and ledge all belong to the Armenian Orthodox Church. The ledge served as a balcony for the Armenian clergy. It was their only opportunity to get fresh air and sunshine without paying the Turkish Muslim tax. Some said that they even grew fresh vegetables on the ledge.
In 1937 after an earthquake that happened in Jerusalem an Armenian monk came down the ladder and began to clean the debris that had fallen on the ledge. In order to move the rubble he had to move the ladder and by doing so he violated the Status Quo that came from a ‘firman’ or edict issued by the Ottoman Sultan in 1757 and reaffirmed in 1852. That edict defined the rights of the different Christian denominations that share that church.
The consequences of moving the ladder is that a major turmoil took place when the Greek Orthodox could not fathom anyone making any changes for whatever reason even if it made sense. The end result was that the Armenian monk was attacked and since then no one has dared to move the ladder.
Actually that has not been the only major fight that has taken place in that holy temple. More recently in the summer of 2002 a Coptic Monk who is stationed on the roof of the church to guard the Coptic claims to the Ethiopian part of the roof dared to move his chair from its agreed spot from the sun into the shade. This of course was seen by the Ethiopian Orthodox as an invasion of property.
The end result, the Jerusalem police tells us that eleven monks both Coptic Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox ended up in the hospital after the resulting fracas.
In September of 2004 another major fight occurred when a Franciscan Roman Catholic monk refused to close the door of the Roman chapel at the request of the Greek Patriarch Irenaus that was leading at the time a procession to commemorate the Blessed Cross of Christ. As he passed by in front of the Roman Catholic area he asked a Franciscan monk to close the door of the Roman chapel. I imagine that he preferred not to see any of the Latin decorations of the Chapel.
The results of this ecumenical encounter according to the Jerusalem police is that 4 Greek monks were arrested, and a Franciscan monk required medical attention because he was bodily attacked by the Orthodox.
Probably you know other shameful stories of how bad Christians get along with each other not only in the Holy Land but also around the world. Luckily for us as Anglicans we don’t have to worry about that. Or do we?
Well yes we do and that is why I want to talk about that ladder, or should I say the need to move our ladder.
It seems that we Episcopalians have been moving the Anglican ladder too much.It probably started when we elected our first bishop in America. We sent him to the Mother Church and he was refused to be consecrated by Canterbury because he was unable to pledge allegiance to the British King that we had just managed to defeat. Actually it was our first bishop that in rebellion moved the ladder when he went with the Jacobites in Scotland for consecration.
Our Episcopal Church and our particular polity were not established during a colonial time instead when we were founded we also came up with a peculiar and different polity in a free America over 200 years ago. We moved the ladder when we made the changes. We eliminated anything that smelled like an Archbishop and managed to remove part of the imperial power of the bishops.We even decided to share that power with the presbyters and the laity and came up with something that we called today the House of Deputies.No official decision can be made in this Church without them.
I began to think of how many other times we moved the ladder. Was it when we allowed birth control or decided not let the mother die during childbirth in order to save the baby? Or was it when we allowed divorced Episcopalians to remarry in the church.
Let me see what else? Oh yes, women’s ordination. I was there in 1976 when we moved the ladder again and voted in Minneapolis to approve the ordination of women to the presbyterate and the episcopacy.
Of course at the same time we up the ante a little more by also changing our Prayer Book to reflect modern English as it was spoken in America during the 20th Century.
It looks like we have been moving the ladder for a long time. It just happens that we are what we are. It’s not easy for others from far away to understand who we are. We are what we are. We were not formed because we were a colony of England that handed over sovereignty. We came to be Episcopalians precisely because we spent years and shed lots of blood fighting the British.
Everything has a consequence and moving the ladder makes people crazy. I know that very well because when I voted with the majority of our church to consent to the consecration of the bishop of New Hampshire I was the recipient of considerable irrational behavior. I was aware that there were going to be some in my diocese that were not going to agree with me but I never realized the angry and almost irrational and bitter reaction of some people that love to call themselves Orthodox.
Let me tell you what happened. When I was the Bishop of Honduras, where I served as Bishop for 17 years my wife Diana responding to the need that little girls had for shelter and in order to prevent their abuse she started a home for abandoned, abused and orphaned girls that today houses and educate over 75 girls, it includes also a school with over 200 students and a clinic to help the indigent of Honduras. Today we have graduated 2 of those girls from the university; we have 14 girls presently studying in the university and over 20 in High School.
But to my amazement after the General Convention of 2003 we began to receive angry letters and cancellation of sponsorships from different parts of this country explaining their cancellation of the sponsorship was because Diana as the Director of the home was also married to this horrible bishop that had voted to give his consent in Minneapolis.
Our Little Roses, a home for abandoned, orphaned and abused girls, a home that is not even in my diocese but in Central America was deprived of over $60,000 dollars of annual sponsorship by angry and irrational people that were willing to hurt and starve the girls in order to somehow hurt me.I find this amazing because those beautiful Honduran girls may know who George Clooney or Brad Pitt are but I am sure that they don’t have the foggiest of who Gene Robinson is.
The girls suffered because of this irrational and inhuman reaction. Since then we have recover some because other people gave us a hand, coming from places like All Saints, Ft. Lauderdale, including their Integrity Chapter.
We still need help so if you happen to have some money around to support the abused, abandoned and orphaned girls of Our Little Roses in Honduras please give us a hand.If you need more information talk to me or to Diana. The girls need your help. We will be around today and tomorrow or search the Web: has all the information. I partially apologize for begging for the orphans but those girls need our help and I couldn’t resist the opportunity for a commercial. Now let me get back to the ladder.
We have been told not to move the ladder. I think the message has arrived to us loud and clear.
We are all aware that we have recently received directives from a communiqué that the way it is written requests from us to be a different Episcopal Church. The problem I see as an Episcopalian in America is that they are asking us to look to Leviticus 20 that inform us who to stone and not to Leviticus 19 that inform us who to love.
Now, I do not want for you to get the wrong impression. You are not in a liberal diocese. I am not a liberal bishop.Ethnically and by birth I am a III World Bishop. It has been six and a half years since I arrived to Southeast Florida from an III World diocese in Central America where I served for almost two decades. I was also born in the III World in a country that the United States has tried to defeat for years but because of the bad aim of the CIA has been unable to. But this American church decided to move the ladder one more time and now this Cuban refugee boy also happens to be the bishop of Southeast Florida. As Ricky Ricardo used to say to Lucy:“Honey I’m home.”
This is now my home and you are in a diocese that has been in complete compliance with the directives of the Windsor Report even before it occurred to the Primates to prepare it.Now this is also a diocese that recognizes that because of our policies we are discriminating and forbidding the participation of all the baptized into the ordained ministry. We recognize that we can bless dogs and cats, cars and all kinds of boats, homes and businesses but we have to refrain from blessing our faithful, believers in Christ that have lived a monogamous respectable life for decades but happen to be of a different sexual orientation.
We do this not because of the demands of foreign prelates but because we believe that it is not allowed by our American General Convention.
In past years we continued our conversation and many in our midst have worked hard in order that our General Convention eventually will allow the full inclusion of all the baptized members into its leadership and give its blessing to all of its members. And now it seems to me that they want us to stop discussing and to stop thinking.
We are supposed to find ways to ignore all the new evidence of science and also we have to show partiality with our sisters and brothers of different sexual orientations with whom we share this church and inform them that they have to continue being second class Episcopalians.
I fervently pray that we may continue in the Anglican Communion but I want to continue in it as an Episcopalian.
I am committed to continue being part of the Anglican Communion but I also want you to know that I am faithful to this Church that was God’s instrument to bring me to Christ and whose form of government was established more than two centuries ago.
I want to continue being a faithful member of this church that for centuries has been sending and keeps sending prayers, financial resources and missionaries to all parts of the world in order to proclaim the Gospel of Christ. We are part of a church that has brought Christ to the world including some of the areas that today point an accusing finger at us.
I firmly believe that if our founders wanted to have the same church polity of other parts of the Communion where presbyters and laity don’t have an equal voice as bishops then they would have chosen to move to Canada or the UK and join those who opposed our justice and independence.
I don’t know how the House of Bishops will respond this coming March when we meet in Texas. I for one will support my Presiding Bishop; Gosh I forgot that!A woman Primate, that’s another time when we moved the ladder.Roman Bishops say that they back the Holy Father; well as an Episcopal Bishop I say that I back the Holy Mother.
It is my fervent prayer that we can find the way towards reconciliation. I am willing to make the necessary sacrifices in all humility but I hope that the rest of the Communion will respect who we are as Episcopalians.
I pray that whatever we do will be seen with pleasure in the eyes of Jesus Christ. A Christ that loves and cares for all and that also calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves.
We are Christians, yes we are.
We are Anglicans, yes we are.
But we are also Episcopalians,
and yes we are what we are.
I want to end with the words of the German singer Paul Van Dyk when he expresses his sentiments in his song: Wir Sind Wir = We are what we are:
“We’re what we are
We’re standing here
We’re not going down
No time to be angry
We’re what we are
We’re standing here
We’re what we are
Divided, defeated and else
But finally, we still exist!
We’re what we are
We will get over it
Because life has to go on
We’re what we are.
This is just a bad phase
We will never give up!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Read, Put the Dots Together, Weep, Get Mad and ACT!

The Walter Reed stories of mold,rodents,feces and patient neglect is much worse than we thought. When we thought that our government officials would actually do something, some of us expressed relief when we watched repairmen fixing the problem. Wrong. They didn't remove the mold, just painted over it. And remember the Congressman's wife from Florida who was escorted out of The State of the Union Speech in 2006 for wearing her "Support the Troops" tee-shirt? Well, today I found out why they put her out. And oh my gosh....Donald Rumsfeld. I hadn't thought about Rummy in awhile. Then he surfaced in the media this week when it got found out that his wife had visited the soldiers in Walter Reed and went home and asked Donald some questions. Oh my gosh! All hell broke loose. I don't know if she's filed for a divorce yet or not. She ought to. She's married to a total, 100% CREEP! Hospital Officials Knew of NeglectComplaints About Walter Reed Were Voiced for Years By Anne Hull and Dana Priest Washington Post Staff Writers Thursday, March 1, 2007
Hospital Officials Knew of NeglectComplaints About Walter Reed Were Voiced for Years By Anne Hull and Dana PriestWashington Post Staff WritersThursday, March 1, 2007; A01 Top officials at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, including the Army's surgeon general, have heard complaints about outpatient neglect from family members, veterans groups and members of Congress for more than three years.
A procession of Pentagon and Walter Reed officials expressed surprise last week about the living conditions and bureaucratic nightmares faced by wounded soldiers staying at the D.C. medical facility. But as far back as 2003, the commander of Walter Reed, Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, who is now the Army's top medical officer, was told that soldiers who were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan were languishing and lost on the grounds, according to interviews.
Steve Robinson, director of veterans affairs at Veterans for America, said he ran into Kiley in the foyer of the command headquarters at Walter Reed shortly after the Iraq war began and told him that "there are people in the barracks who are drinking themselves to death and people who are sharing drugs and people not getting the care they need."
"I met guys who weren't going to appointments because the hospital didn't even know they were there," Robinson said. Kiley told him to speak to a sergeant major, a top enlisted officer. A recent Washington Post series detailed conditions at Walter Reed, including those at Building 18, a dingy former hotel on Georgia Avenue where the wounded were housed among mice, mold, rot and cockroaches.
Kiley lives across the street from Building 18. From his quarters, he can see the scrappy building and busy traffic the soldiers must cross to get to the 113-acre post. At a news conference last week, Kiley, who declined several requests for interviews for this article, said that the problems of Building 18 "weren't serious and there weren't a lot of them." He also said they were not "emblematic of a process of Walter Reed that has abandoned soldiers and their families." But according to interviews, Kiley, his successive commanders at Walter Reed and various top noncommissioned officers in charge of soldiers' lives have heard a stream of complaints about outpatient treatment over the past several years. The complaints have surfaced at town hall meetings for staff and soldiers, at commanders' "sensing sessions" in which soldiers or officers are encouraged to speak freely, and in several inspector general's reports detailing building conditions, safety issues and other matters.
Retired Maj. Gen. Kenneth L. Farmer Jr., who commanded Walter Reed for two years until last August, said that he was aware of outpatient problems and that there were "ongoing reviews and discussions" about how to fix them when he left. He said he shared many of those issues with Kiley, his immediate commander. Last summer when he turned over command to Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, Farmer said, "there were a variety of things we identified as opportunities for continued improvement."
In 2004, Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) and his wife stopped visiting the wounded at Walter Reed out of frustration. Young said he voiced concerns to commanders over troubling incidents he witnessed but was rebuffed or ignored. "When Bev or I would bring problems to the attention of authorities of Walter Reed, we were made to feel very uncomfortable," said Young, who began visiting the wounded recuperating at other facilities.
Beverly Young said she complained to Kiley several times. She once visited a soldier who was lying in urine on his mattress pad in the hospital. When a nurse ignored her, Young said, "I went flying down to Kevin Kiley's office again, and got nowhere. He has skirted this stuff for five years and blamed everyone else."
Young said that even after Kiley left Walter Reed to become the Army's surgeon general, "if anything could have been done to correct problems, he could have done it." Soldiers and family members say their complaints have been ignored by commanders at many levels.
More than a year ago, Chief Warrant Officer Jayson Kendrick, an outpatient, attended a sensing session, the Army's version of a town hall meeting where concerns are raised in front of the chain of command. Kendrick spoke about the deterioration and crowded conditions of the outpatient administrative building, which had secondhand computers and office furniture shoved into cubicles, creating chaos for family members. An inspector general attending the meeting "chuckled and said, 'What do you want, pool tables and Ping-Pong tables in there?' " Kendrick recalled.
Army officials have been at other meetings in which outpatient problems were detailed. On Feb. 17, 2005, Kiley sat in a congressional hearing room as Sgt. 1st Class John Allen, injured in Afghanistan in 2002, described what he called a "dysfunctional system" at Walter Reed in which "soldiers go months without pay, nowhere to live, their medical appointments canceled." Allen added: "The result is a massive stress and mental pain causing further harm. It would be very easy to correct the situation if the command element climate supported it. The command staff at Walter Reed needs to show their care."
In 2006, Joe Wilson, a clinical social worker in the department of psychiatry, briefed several colonels at Walter Reed about problems and steps that could be taken to improve living conditions at Building 18. Last March, he also shared the findings of a survey his department had conducted.
It found that 75 percent of outpatients said their experience at Walter Reed had been "stressful" and that there was a "significant population of unsatisfied, frustrated, disenfranchised patients." Military commanders played down the findings. "These people knew about it," Wilson said. "The bottom line is, people knew about it but the culture of the Army didn't allow it to be addressed."
Last October, Joyce Rumsfeld, the wife of then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, was taken to Walter Reed by a friend concerned about outpatient treatment. She attended a weekly meeting, called Girls Time Out, at which wives, girlfriends and mothers of soldiers exchange stories and offer support.
According to three people who attended the gathering, Rumsfeld listened quietly. Some of the women did not know who she was. At the end of the meeting, Rumsfeld asked one of the staff members whether she thought that the soldiers her husband was meeting on his visits had been handpicked to paint a rosy picture of their time there. The answer was yes.
When Walter Reed officials found out that Rumsfeld had visited, they told the friend who brought her -- a woman who had volunteered there many times -- that she was no longer welcome on the grounds.
Last week, the Army relieved of duty several low-ranking soldiers who managed outpatients. This week, in a move that some soldiers viewed as reprisal for speaking to the media, the wounded troops were told that early-morning room inspections would be held and that further contact with reporters is prohibited.
Yesterday, Walter Reed received an unscheduled inspection by a hospital accreditation agency. Members of the Joint Commission, formerly the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, began a two-day visit "for cause" to examine discharge practices that have allowed soldiers to go missing or unaccounted for after they are released from the hospital. -----------------------------------------------------------------
Editor & Publisher Military Press Crackdown Extends Further Than Walter Reed
By Joe Strupp
Published: February 28, 2007 2:45 PM ET
NEW YORK A report today that soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center are being told not to speak with the press is apparently just the latest move in a recent effort to tighten restrictions on journalists' access to many military facilities, according to the president of Military Reporters and Editors.
James Crawley, a military reporter with MediaGeneral and MRE president, said today's revelation by Army Times that Walter Reed patients had been barred from speaking with reporters is not the first case of tightened restrictions.
In recent months, he says several MRE members have reported similar crackdowns. What's worse, many of the denials are apparently in reaction to the potential negativity of a planned story."
It is starting to look like it is becoming a policy in some areas where they are not allowing reporters on the base unless it is an absolutely positively good news story," said Crawley. "The military is making it harder and harder to do stories on bases, as far as doing man on the street interviews."
A Pentagon spokesman contacted by E&P had no immediate comment.Crawley's accusations followed today's Times story, which reported that Walter Reed patients had been muzzled just a week after The Washington Post revealed that outpatients at the facility were forced to live in rundown, poorly maintained housing.
The Times also reported that "The Pentagon ... clamped down on media coverage of any and all Defense Department medical facilities, to include suspending planned projects by CNN and the Discovery Channel, saying in an e-mail to spokespeople: 'It will be in most cases not appropriate to engage the media while [the Walter Reed] review takes place.'"
But some MRE members said that the clampdown is in place at other military facilities, not just medical centers. Sig Christenson, former MRE president and military writer at the San Antonio Express-News, cited two recent instances of access denials he received.Several weeks ago, he said he was denied entrance to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio for a story related to the 3,000th death in Iraq. Just this week, he said Lackland Air Force Base had refused to let him in for a story related to the recent controversy surrounding drill sergeant Michelle Manhart, who was demoted by the Air Force for posing in Playboy."I wanted to spend some time with the trainers there and show how they instill core values and integrity in these troops," said Christenson. "They refused me access because Michelle Manhart was part of the story.
They did not want to support another story that had Michelle Manhart in it."Christenson said the denials were serious because they were apparently in reaction to the subject of the story, not any security issue. "This is the first time in 10 years that any installation had denied me access on the basis of the content of my reporting," Christenson, a multiple Iraq embed, said. "It is a really dangerous thing that raises a lot of issues. It raises the question of my credibility."Crawley agreed. "This is troublesome because it keeps the average person from learning the real facts here," he said. "They are trying to censor the news, in this case it is bad news.
The military has gone into a bunker mentality." He also had heard reports from some reporters that casualty numbers were not being released as freely as in the past. "They are trying to manage the news," he said. "There has to be some middle ground and in the past there has been middle ground."***Related E&P story: Wounded Soldiers Told Not to Talk to Media Joe Strupp ( is a senior editor at E&P. Links referenced within this article Wounded Soldiers Told Not to Talk to Media Find this article at:
Walter Reed patients told to keep quiet By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Feb 28, 2007 20:26:13 EST Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media.
“Some soldiers believe this is a form of punishment for the trouble soldiers caused by talking to the media,” one Medical Hold Unit soldier said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. It is unusual for soldiers to have daily inspections after Basic Training.
Soldiers say their sergeant major gathered troops at 6 p.m. Monday to tell them they must follow their chain of command when asking for help with their medical evaluation paperwork, or when they spot mold, mice or other problems in their quarters.
They were also told they would be moving out of Building 18 to Building 14 within the next couple of weeks. Building 14 is a barracks that houses the administrative offices for the Medical Hold Unit and was renovated in 2006. It’s also located on the Walter Reed Campus, where reporters must be escorted by public affairs personnel. Building 18 is located just off campus and is easy to access.
The soldiers said they were also told their first sergeant has been relieved of duty, and that all of their platoon sergeants have been moved to other positions at Walter Reed. And 120 permanent-duty soldiers are expected to arrive by mid-March to take control of the Medical Hold Unit, the soldiers said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Army public affairs did not respond to a request sent Sunday evening to verify the personnel changes. The Pentagon also clamped down on media coverage of any and all Defense Department medical facilities, to include suspending planned projects by CNN and the Discovery Channel, saying in an e-mail to spokespeople: “It will be in most cases not appropriate to engage the media while this review takes place,” referring to an investigation of the problems at Walter Reed.
'Wash Post': Top Officials Knew About Walter Reed Problems Long Ago By E&P Staff Published: March 01, 2007 12:05 AM ET NEW YORK Continuing with their scoops in this area well into a second week, Anne Hull and Dana Priest on Thursday reveal in a front-page Washington Post story that top officials at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, including the Army's surgeon general, "have heard complaints about outpatient neglect from family members, veterans groups and members of Congress for more than three years."A procession of Pentagon and Walter Reed officials expressed surprise last week about the living conditions and bureaucratic nightmares faced by wounded soldiers staying at the D.C. medical facility," they write. "But as far back as 2003, the commander of Walter Reed, Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, who is now the Army's top medical officer, was told that soldiers who were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan were languishing and lost on the grounds, according to interviews...."In 2004, Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) and his wife stopped visiting the wounded at Walter Reed out of frustration. Young said he voiced concerns to commanders over troubling incidents he witnessed but was rebuffed or ignored. 'When Bev or I would bring problems to the attention of authorities of Walter Reed, we were made to feel very uncomfortable,' said Young, who began visiting the wounded recuperating at other facilities."Beverly Young said she complained to Kiley several times. She once visited a soldier who was lying in urine on his mattress pad in the hospital. When a nurse ignored her, Young said, 'I went flying down to Kevin Kiley's office again, and got nowhere. He has skirted this stuff for five years and blamed everyone else.'"Soldiers and family members say their complaints have been ignored by commanders at many levels."The rest of the report can be found at
'Wash Post': Top Officials Knew About Walter Reed Problems Long Ago
By E&P Staff
Published: March 01, 2007 12:05 AM ET
NEW YORK Continuing with their scoops in this area well into a second week, Anne Hull and Dana Priest on Thursday reveal in a front-page Washington Post story that top officials at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, including the Army's surgeon general, "have heard complaints about outpatient neglect from family members, veterans groups and members of Congress for more than three years."
A procession of Pentagon and Walter Reed officials expressed surprise last week about the living conditions and bureaucratic nightmares faced by wounded soldiers staying at the D.C. medical facility," they write. "But as far back as 2003, the commander of Walter Reed, Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, who is now the Army's top medical officer, was told that soldiers who were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan were languishing and lost on the grounds, according to interviews....
"In 2004, Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) and his wife stopped visiting the wounded at Walter Reed out of frustration. Young said he voiced concerns to commanders over troubling incidents he witnessed but was rebuffed or ignored. 'When Bev or I would bring problems to the attention of authorities of Walter Reed, we were made to feel very uncomfortable,' said Young, who began visiting the wounded recuperating at other facilities."
Beverly Young said she complained to Kiley several times. She once visited a soldier who was lying in urine on his mattress pad in the hospital. When a nurse ignored her, Young said, 'I went flying down to Kevin Kiley's office again, and got nowhere. He has skirted this stuff for five years and blamed everyone else.'"Soldiers and family members say their complaints have been ignored by commanders at many levels."The rest of the report can be found at
St. Petersburg Times
T-shirt earns exit from House gallery
Beverly Young, the outspoken wife of U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, says officers objected to her "Support the Troops" shirt.
By BILL ADAIR, Times Washington Bureau Chief
Published February 1, 2006
WASHINGTON - Beverly Young, wife of Rep. C.W. Bill Young of Indian Shores, said she was ejected from the House gallery during Tuesday night's State of the Union address because she was wearing a T-shirt that said "Support the Troops - Defending Our Freedom." Young said she was sitting in the gallery's front row, about six seats from first lady Laura Bush, when she was approached by someone from the Capitol Police or sergeant-at-arms office who told her she needed to leave the gallery. She reluctantly agreed but argued with several officers in the hallway outside the House chamber.
"They said I was protesting," she said in a telephone interview late Tuesday. "I said, "Read my shirt, it is not a protest.' They said, "We consider that a protest.' I said, "Then you are an idiot."' She said she was so angry that "I got real colorful with them."
They told her she was being treated the same as Cindy Sheehan, an antiwar protester who was ejected before the speech Tuesday night for wearing a T-shirt with an antiwar slogan and refusing to cover it up.
Young, 50, said her shirt was not a protest but a message of support for U.S. soldiers and Marines fighting for their country. She often wears the T-shirts when visiting her husband at the Capitol and during her visits to see the wounded at military hospitals.
Sgt. Kimberly Schneider of the Capitol Police could not provide details about the incident but said, "She was not ejected from the gallery. She did leave on her own."
Young's husband, a Republican who chairs the House appropriations subcommittee on defense, was unaware she was removed until after the speech. He said he was furious about the incident. "I just called for the chief of police and asked him to get his little tail over here," Rep. Young said late Tuesday. "This is not acceptable." Beverly Young said, "Wait until the president finds out."


I found this great NY Times Op-Ed piece which explains the history of the current state of affairs in the Anglican Communion. In the grand scheme of things, if the U.S. Church and the Anglican Communion divorce, it can actually free up The Episcopal Church to utilize the $750,000 + that it spends on the Anglican Communion to further it's ministry so important to Episcopalians. These would include more funding for the United Nations Global Millennium Fund, Episcopal Relief and Development Fund, the ability to fund more missionaries and last but not least, the ability to continue its ministry of social justice. March 1, 2007 Op-Ed Contributor A Divorce the Church Should Smile Upon By JACK MILES Los Angeles THE decision of the global Anglican Communion to threaten the Episcopal Church, its American affiliate, with expulsion is about much more than the headline issue of homosexuality. Yes, the impending divorce has been precipitated by the decision of the Episcopal Church to consecrate a gay bishop and to allow individual congregations to decide whether or not to allow gay marriages. But as so often in religious history, the deeper issue is one of church governance. In effect, the Episcopalians left the Church of England more than two centuries ago. The problem dates back to the time of the American Revolution, when the Church of England in America was just what that name says: it was the Church of England, merely in America. Since the 16th century, when King Henry VIII made himself, in effect, the pope of England, the English king had been the supreme church authority. Time had somewhat eroded this authority by 1776, thanks in part to the Puritan revolution in the mid-17th century. Nonetheless, the authority structure within the church remained officially monarchical. More Here:

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Father Alagna really lays out the current state of affairs in The Episcopal Church and our relationship with the Anglican Communion. Like her or hate her, our Primate, Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori really put TEC in a pickle. She went over there and signed off on things that our denomination has NEVER agreed to. She didn't take the time to take a deep breath before signing that blasted Communique, and say, "I need to take these issues up with the House of Bishops and House of Deputies back home. Our church functions as a democracy and I cannot in good conscience sign this document without the approval of The Episcopal Church." And now we face the consequences for that decision. Read what Father Alagna has to say about it...a great read.
The following letter by Dr. Frank Alagna, a priest of the Diocese of New York who lives in Hong Kong, was sent to the Presiding Bishop. It is posted with his permission. The Reverend Frank J. Alagna, Ph.D. Hong Kong, PRC March 1, 2007 The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori Presiding Bishop New York City, NY 10017 Dear Bishop Katharine, As I read and ponder your post “primates summit” comments and reflections, I am deeply disappointed, rather discouraged and, to be perfectly honest, genuinely outraged. I believe that not to be outraged would be tantamount to being unconscious. Your words convey a not so subtle agenda and appear rather manipulative toward its execution. Using church speak and religious rhetoric, it clearly seems to be your intention, if you could have it your way, to deliver the Episcopal Church and gay and lesbian people into punishing hands. In recent years, the British press and public have seen fit to caricature Tony Blair as a “lap dog” of the American president. He has transparently colluded in our administration’s distortions and thereby devolved into being perceived and judged a failed leader. As with a British Prime Minister so, I guess, it can be with an American Presiding Bishop. You went to Dar es Salaam as Primate of the Episcopal Church. You carried the dignity and integrity of our church in your person. We sent you because we had perceived you to have the strength of character, the intellectual acumen, and the prophetic courage to hold “our own” at this meeting. Only a fool would have imagined that you could have possibly made some headway given what you were facing. But you could have simply stood your ground, drawn your own line in the sand relative to respectful boundaries, and walked away with your grace and our dignity intact. Sadly, it seems, you have returned home appearing to be, dare I say, a lap dog of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other Anglican Primates. How could you have ever agreed to carry back an ultimatum to be responded to in six months when you know full well that our convention (the only organ in our polity with jurisdiction to respond to such a communiqué) does not meet again for two years? A simple, “As much as I would like to promise you guys an answer in six months, we don’t work that way”, it seems to me, should have sufficed. Or possibly, “Mail your ultimatum to us in two years and we will make it our convention’s first order of business.” But why should the primates respect our process when some of them, with the apparent indulgence of others among them, have yet to learn a basic respect for the dignity of the human person, not to mention a respect for the integrity of a sister church’s polity and boundaries? Apparently you did accept the ultimatum and its deadline because you seems to think “that the House of Bishops,” flying solo, “can answer the demands made by the primates”. Hello! When were they given this jurisdiction? On another note, what would ever lead you to believe that you can have it both ways, as your recent comments would have us understand. That you can maintain communion with churches who reject the human rights and sacramental dignity of the gay and lesbian members: lay, priestly and episcopal of our church, and at the same time maintain communion with these very members and all those Episcopalians who share a bond of affection with them? Ecclesially, how can you propose to maintain communion with churches who do not respect the canonical boundaries of our church and, at the same time maintain the integrity of our Episcopal household of faith? And please spare me your “ache for the pain that this communiqué is causing to people in our own church who see issues of justice as absolutely central”. First, this is not about you, Katharine. Your “ache” is of little import. Such shallow empathy mocks and trivializes the excruciating experience with which persons of same gender affection have lived for millennia. If you really want to partner with us in the pain that you ask us to continue to accept, then, I suggest you add to the ultimatum a moratorium on any future consecrations of women. Partner with us in the personal and eccesial impact of discrimination, and show us by example how to step back into the pit from which we escaped in 2003. I learned long ago never ask others to do what you are not prepared do yourself. Second, this is not about issues of justice and inclusion as opposed to the maintenance of a traditional ethic of human sexuality. To pose it in this way or to accept its being posed in this fashion is neither the deepest, nor the most honest , and certainly not the most useful statement of the conflict. Can it really be “a choice between the requirements of justice and inclusion, on the one hand, and fidelity to a strict understanding of the biblical tradition and to the main stream of the ethical tradition, on the other?” (By way of parenthesis, it should be noted, and noted as often as necessary, that a commitment to the requirements of justice and inclusion represent no less a strict understanding of the biblical tradition and the main stream of its ethical tradition. Justice is, in fact, the overarching ethic of the Judeo-Christian tradition. We are biblically taught, and similarly schooled by the best of the church’s tradition, that there is no love without justice, there is no peace without justice, and there can be no real union or communion without justice. The fact that Jesus had much to say about justice and inclusion and was relatively silent about sexuality should always give us pause as we presume to articulate the gospel’s non-negotiables.) Returning to the argument, I find it hard to believe that the Spirit would ever lead the Church to such an impossible choice. I think we do a disservice to Her movement among us by allowing it to be articulated in such a fashion. Any articulation that would have the Spirit appear to be doing so, must be rejected as outside of our understanding of a loving God. That we can cast it as such, is undeniable. That the Spirit would have us do this, is unthinkable. Some, even the majority, would like to have it posed in this way and if we continue to allow them to do this, we collude in not identifying the real polarity that is at issue in this controversy. Conservatives across denominations will always try to lay primary claim to authentic, traditional faith. We, daily, see ample evidence of this penchant of the religious right to co-opt the rhetoric of faith, while failing to grasp its heart, and to make this preemptive claim so as to discredit those who believe other than they. The end result of this usurpation is to parade before the eyes of the thinking world, a church that is rendered an object of incredulity rather than a sacrament that invites faith. Yes, I agree, Bishop, the world, at its best, has moved beyond intolerance, beyond the acceptability of “hate talk” and beyond discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The future does belong to acceptance, inclusion and celebration. Faithfully and courageously, the Episcopal Church has embraced, in recent years, a series of resolutions that resonate with both the best instincts in the human community and the most faithful reading of our scriptures and most faithful understanding of our evolving tradition. I, for one, want the Episcopal Church to continue to be on the forefront of proclaiming the good news of God’’s all-inclusive love and never to be perceived by a more hesitant world or church to be retreating from this proclamation. I propose rather that the polarity be expressed as being between faithfulness to an enlightened (by science and human experience) understanding of the gospel (one that recognizes that justice and faithfulness are handmaidens to each other - never to be posed as opponents) and “sham” fidelity, representing not so much faithfulness to the best traditions of faith, as mindless adherence to a calcified, literal reading of the scriptures and an equally calcified articulation of the tradition. The choice is between fidelity to the Spirit Who, by Her promise, is always leading us into a deeper understanding, apprehension and articulation of the truth and a rigidity of mind and hardness of heart that serves only to confirm us in our unquestioned projections and biased assumptions. The later leaves the Spirit little room to lead in the ongoing unfolding of the Mystery of God. It seems that no matter how much experience we have of the goodness and grace-filledness of openness, movement and change, each invitation is always met with the same hackneyed resistance, on the part of those with an infantile or pathological need to lock God in their time limited expressions and idiosyncratic experiences. As a priest, who happens to be gay, I am beginning to feel very untrusting of you. I am not interested in hearing, “Suck it up for the sake of the unity of the communion.” That’s history. Been there. Done that. Gay people do not want to be merely listened to any more. We want to be heard. And you need to hear, that offering our lives, our dignity, our integrity, our very flesh as a sacrifice on the altar of ignorance and hate is no longer an option. I have served the church for 35 years. Surrender to this unconscionable ultimatum and I am inclined to walk. And I do not believe that I will be alone in walking away. You need to consider that if you would end our conflict with the primates by acceding to their demands, you run the serious risk of engendering far greater conflict within our own church. If you think we have a few problems with a few conservative dioceses and parishes, wait until you see the fall out from any capitulation to Dar es Salaam. Akinola does not support the National Church. A host of gay and lesbian people do. Yes, no part of the body can say to another part, “We have no need of you.” But you seem to have made your application of this scripture to the present situation somewhat backward. It is not we who are giving disowning ultimatums to our sister churches of the Anglican communion, rather it is certain of these churches who are saying to the Episcopal Church, “We have no need of you.” We have literally been bending over backward to stay at the table with them. The last convention saw us take an ill conceived and odious action for the very purpose of keeping the conversation going. Have you forgotten that the House of Deputies twice turned down that highly problematic resolution? Have you forgotten that the former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswald, with you at his side, had to plead with the Deputies to accede, against their best instincts and judgment to your request that this discriminatory resolution be passed? The “compelling” reason given was that you would thereby be able to attend the Primates meeting. Given what happened at that meeting - some might say that it would have been better if you had not gone. That questionable resolution was presented as temporary and non binding. You journeyed to Dar es Salaam and returned with some clear and apparent conviction that the resolution should be made permanent and binding for the sake of being able to keep the conversation going. And now, the mythical terminus ad quem, is until certain of the churches in the Anglican communion can integrate “reason” into their theologizing. Well, I was always taught that reason was already one of the foundational sources of authentic Anglican theology. Maybe some of those Primates are not as Anglican as they would like to have us all believe?“ The “container”, as you call it. “in which the Anglican Communion can continue to discuss issues that many Anglicans would rather avoid.” is nothing less than a prison for gay and lesbian people. Should we make sure that you take at least one of us, as a bauble in a cage, to any future meetings of the communion you will attend to make sure we are kept as an issue to be discussed? I, for one, have little interest in continuing to be discussed as an issue. That in itself is objectifying, depersonalizing and grossly disrespectful. I am tired of having straight people discuss us as if they were the experts in healthy sexual living who play with a full moral deck, especially when they are prepared to allow “low points” like the one to which you made reference, ”when one primate equated homosexuality with pedophilia and another said he couldn’t see why the Anglican Communion should study homosexuality if it doesn’t need to study murder”. When will a disavowal of hate speech be made a litmus test for membership in the Anglican Communion? I would suggest that an even lower point was reached at this recent meeting, when the remaining primates revealed themselves to be tolerant of the expression of such hate inflaming and ignorant talk. If such would be the tenor of the desired ongoing conversation, then let it end yesterday. It seems once again that while the Episcopal Church is being called to Anglican orthodoxy, other churches in this communion are free to do whatever they please, e.g., cross jurisdictions; be as noncompliant to certain Lambeth resolutions as they choose, e.g., supporting laws that violate the human and civil rights of persons of same gender affection; and be as un-Anglican as suits them, e.g., theologize without the support of reason. Contrary to your advice, this is not a time to be quiet. The physical, psychological and spiritual well being of gay and lesbian persons is back on the chopping block. Again, I say, this is not a time to be quiet. This is a time to speak out as loudly as we can that we will not tolerate renewed discrimination in our church. No, Rosa Parks will not give up her seat because some believe she should. No, Katherine will not resign as Presiding Bishop because some churches do not recognize the validity of her ministry even as a priest, much less as a bishop. No. Gene Robinson will not be relegated to the ecclesialical dust bin because some object to his manner of life. While the Anglican communion has its merits and while it would certainly be a noble idea to sustain it for whatever its value in advancing the priorities of the Kingdom of God, must we not face the hard facts that most Episcopalians do not live their lives with much reference to it. Gracefully and gratefully, most Episcopalians live their lives with far more reference to personal dignity and communal integrity. Despite your denial, “We’re being asked to pause in the journey. We are not being asked to go back,” you seem to be prepared to have the Episcopal Church, in fact, go backward for the sake of having what, another maybe 20, 50, or 100 years to do remedial sex education? But really I do not hear anyone asking for what you would have us position ourselves to offer. If your presence and participation in the primates meeting changed any hearts and minds, it certainly was not obvious in their communiqué. The conversation seems always one sided. Despite all the talk of a listening process, I don’t hear much mutual listening going on. I hear rather, “You, North Americans listen to us and you had better do what we tell you to do - or else there will be severe consequences”. I have yet to see the” advantage of our being at the table” where their “views” are in fact not allowed to be challenged and where capitulation is demanded of us. In July I came to live in Hong Kong when my partner of twenty-five years was hired as the Artistic Director of the HK Ballet. Shortly after my arrival I sent a letter, with my credentials from the Bishop of New York, to Archbishop Peter Kwong. I requested a meeting expressing a desire to put my ministry at his service and the service of the diocese. He did not extend me the courtesy of a meeting. Rather, simply because I was an American, (he had no knowledge that I was gay), he wrote in a two sentence reply, that due of the crisis in the Anglican Communion he could not accept my generous offer of service. As he did not appear to demonstrate much interest in simple courtesy toward a visiting priest, I have no reason to believe that he has any interest in conversation. For the most part the leaders of the sister churches who are prepared to reject us, have indicated no interest in hearing about how we came to the point of joyfully consecrating a priest, who happened to be gay, as one of our bishops. They have no interest in hearing that it was not some impulsive act on our part, but rather the fruit of listening over many years to the faith stories of gay and lesbian believers and allowing our church to be a safe place for conversation and sharing life. They have no interest in hearing that we cannot treat it as a mistake to be apologized for, without denying our lived experience and without engendering an irreparable breach of trust. Do you really believe that Akinola and company want to hear about the experiences of gay and lesbian people? Get real, Bishop. Akinola would rather see us put to death or at least thrown into prison. What did they slip into your cocktails in Tanzania? You left clear in your thinking and have returned to us rather fuzzy in your logic. You say that you want to ensure that the conversation about the inclusion of gays and lesbians in the church continues in the Communion. Why must we be in communion to continue to talk? We are neither in communion with the Roman Catholic Church or the Orthodox and we talk to them, as well as to many others with whom we are not in communion. As a matter of fact, it is often true, that more effective communication can happen when needed boundaries are drawn and respected. With regard to a primatial vicar - this is another ill conceived attempt at a solution to an admittedly difficult problem. It is a bad dea. It is theologically unsound. Alternative episcopal oversight hurts the church. It erodes and undermines its unity. There is ample evidence that it has wreaked havoc in the English Church. And again, like all else, it is one sided. How about a primatial vicar for Episcopalians who will not accept the Tanzania ultimatum? Finally, when will we be done with the pining and hand wringing about schism? Is it always a bad thing to be avoided at all costs? Schism has, after all, always been a part of the church’s life. Has it not, in fact, served certain leaps forward? As Anglicans our own way was born of schism. Was the reformation a bad thing or a good thing? Yes at some level all divorces represent a certain failure, but at another level of processing, in many situations, both interpersonal and ecclesial, divorce can also be and often is a good and holy thing by which possibilities are created for new life. I, for one, fear schism far less than I fear continuing bondage to dead and soul destroying expressions of so called tradition. Is it clearly not time for a new reformation? A reformation that convenes thinking members from across all Christian denominations to lay claim to a shared identity and faith that distinguishes itself from mindless expressions of belief and holds up a viable thinking alternative before the eyes of an increasingly faithless world. You say that you know where your heart lies and that it is divided. May I commend for your meditation, a verse from the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the single hearted for they shall see God.” May the Lord be gracious to you and give you His peace. Faithfully in Christ, The Rev. Frank J. Alagna, Ph.D. Episcopal Diocese of New York Resident in Hong Kong


I met Bishop Robinson three years ago this month when I had the privilege of meeting him when I went to New Hampshire for his investiture as Bishop of New Hampshire. He autographed my prayer book with the following inscription: "For Gordon-Blessings on you and your ministry of inclusion."
I was wearing my inclusion button and had taken the few I had left with me to New Hampshire. That was before we had our own button machine. Folks from St. Mark's and St. Andrew's Episcopal churches contributed to the fund to be able to have a local company make them.
When Bishop Robinson gave me a hug that evening and commented on the button and wrote what he wrote in my prayer book, a light went on in my head and realized that no, I'm not a member of the clergy, I'm not an elected official, but I do have a ministry which I didn't realize at the time.
I wondered what Bishop Robinson has been thinking about since the Episcopomess our Presiding Bishop brought home with her from Tanzania.
The Gentle Bishop has made TWO statements which I am proud to post here. Please keep Bishop Robinson in your prayers. There are very mean people who wish him harm.
A Word of Hope to my lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered brothers and sisters in Christ:
From: +Gene Robinson
In light of the recent Primates Meeting and our Presiding Bishop’s communication to the Church, I received the following plea from a dear and trusted sister:
“Gene, I don't know how you are this night, or if you can summon a word of hope, but the eyes of many LGBT people and our faithful allies are looking to you, tuning the ears of our hearts to hear where you see the hand of God in what feels like deep, deep betrayal.”
After a good number of sleepless nights and prayerful days, let me tell you where this gay man and Bishop of the Church stands, with respect to our beloved Church and our trustworthy and faithful God:
Let’s remember that, for now, nothing has changed. The Episcopal Church has been bold in its inclusion of us, “risking its life” for us in dramatic ways over these last few years. Not perfect, but bold. Just because The Episcopal Church has been invited to subvert its own polity and become a Church ruled by bishops-only, a Church that is willing to sacrifice the lives and ministries and dignity of its gay and lesbian members on the altar of unity, does not mean that we are going to choose to do it. That is yet to be determined. Let’s not abandon hope simply because that is possible. The Primates have the right to make requests of us (nevermind the threatening tone of those requests). We do not have to accede to those requests in exactly the terms in which they are made.
Nothing is surprising in this development. None of us thought this issue was settled, did we? None of us expected our detractors to stop their efforts – whether their goals be genuinely about the authority of scripture and its playing out in our lives as Christians, or whether those goals have more to do with power and money and influence. (BOTH are represented in the actions taken.) We are fighting a larger battle here. As you have heard me say before, we are engaged in the beginning of the end of patriarchy. Did any of us believe that such a battle would be won without resistance? Did any of us believe there would be no more bumps in the road? Did any of us foresee smooth sailing into the future?
We still have countless allies. We are not engaged in this struggle alone. There are countless heterosexual members of this Church who now “get it.” They have heard our stories, felt our pain and taken up our cause as their own. There are countless heterosexual families who have joined The Episcopal Church (they are numerous in my own diocese) because they want to raise their children in such an inclusive Church. There are countless lgbt people who have come to our churches for the comfort and solace and grounding in Christ that we offer – and we dare not lose hope or momentum for them as well as ourselves.
Most importantly, God is still with us. And by “us,” I don’t just mean gay and lesbian people. God is still with God’s Church – frail, cowardly and misguided as it can sometimes be, human nature being what it is. The Church is not ours to save or lose – the Church belongs to GOD, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. I believe that we are meant to use the institution of the Church – yes, even boldy risk its existence – to further NOT our own agenda, but the agenda of God. I do not equate the two. Our vision of the Church is only partial; our grasp of what God wants is as susceptible to our self-focused distortion as anyone else’s. But we are called to witness to OUR vision of God’s will and combine it with all the other imperfect visions of God’s will (yes, even those of our detractors), and come up with as perfected a vision as we can muster. The Church has been wrangling over those different visions since its inception – and that will never change. The question for US, however, is: Will we continue to put forward faithfully and respectfully and tenaciously OUR vision into that mix, or will we be intimidated into doubting our own vision of God’s will for the Church – or worse still, leave?
God will continue to show forth God’s glory and God’s goodness in our lives. The reason that we have made progress with our brothers and sisters in the Church is that GOD has shown forth God’s glory and goodness in our lives so strongly, that God cannot be denied at work in us. Many of the faithful have changed their views on homosexuality because they see GOD showing up in our lives, our ministries, our relationships and our families. That is the witness we can and must continue to make to the Church – not pointing to ourselves, but to the God we know in our lives. As I have said before, and will continue to say: JESUS is our agenda – the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for our sins, and the sins of the whole world, so that we might know God’s love and goodness in our lives. In the end, God will reign, and all will be well. I believe that with my whole heart.
Lastly, I give thanks every day to God for the fellowship we share. Part of what gives me relentless hope is my fellowship with YOU. What an honor and privilege it is to hold you in my heart as brothers and sisters in the faith, colleagues in ministry and faithful members of the Church. Can you imagine a more wonderful, fun and courageous group of “companions along the way?” Let our joy, our humor, our devotion to the Lord and to His Church be signs of the abundant life given to us in Christ. Let gay and lesbian people everywhere witness our joy, let them wonder how we can be so hopeful in the face of such overwhelming odds against us, that they want what we’ve got – a relationship with the living God that brings deep joy and abiding peace. Let us be ready to tell them the story of our own salvation at the hands of a loving God. And let us welcome them into our blessed fellowship, the Church.
I don’t know if this is the “word of hope” my friend asked for. It has little to do with events in Tanzania or even the Episcopal Church, and everything to do with God. But it is the hope that keeps me going. My faith is not in myself or in our “cause.” My faith is not in the House of Bishops or the General Convention to get it “right” anytime soon. It is, rather, the faith that people of countless generations and innumerable circumstances have found in our loving and trustworthy God. It is the faith Jesus said it was “blessed” to be persecuted for. It is the faith that Christians have always found in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – and God’s desire, willingness and power to bring an Easter out of ANY Good Friday. It is the faith that in and through the Holy Spirit, God continues to fulfill God’s promise “to lead us into all truth.”
I may utterly fail; I will undoubtedly disappoint God in my inability to be the person God created me to be; I will predictably confuse my own will with God’s will. But whatever the next weeks, months and years may bring, whether the Episcopal Church “comes through” for us or not, GOD will not fail, GOD will never disappoint, and GOD will never cease to pursue God’s will for my life – and yours – and for the world.
A Response to: A Season of Fasting: Reflections on the Primates Meeting, the Presiding Bishop’s message to the Church
FROM: The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire
I have the utmost regard and respect for our new Presiding Bishop. Her leadership in these difficult times, not to mention her sheer courage, continues to inspire me.
As I vowed at her investiture as Presiding Bishop, I will do everything I can to support her in this ministry. That includes disagreeing with her views when I think it would build up the Body. What follows are my responses to those portions of her communication to the American Church dealing with the demands/threats made to The Episcopal Church related to those members of Christ’s Body who happen to be gay. Allow me to offer a different reading/critique of our Presiding Bishop’s words, and then propose a different way forward.
“What is being asked of both parties is a season of fasting – from authorizing rites for blessing same-sex unions and consecrating bishops in such unions on the one hand, and from transgressing traditional diocesan boundaries on the other.”
I am reminded of the joke about the chicken and the pig, each asked to contribute to breakfast – the chicken’s eggs require a significantly smaller sacrifice than the pig’s bacon! Let us be clear: what is being asked of both parties is “a season of fasting from” accepting the Church’s gay and lesbian people as full members of the Body of Christ, a season of fasting from “respecting the dignity of every human being.” If The Episcopal Church decides to do that, let’s call it what it is: a sacrifice borne most sacrificially by its gay and lesbian members.
[In citing the early church’s debate over dietary laws] “The needs of the weaker members, and the real possibility that their faith may be injured, are an important consideration in making the dietary decision.”
If there ARE “needs of the weaker members, and the real possibility that their faith may be injured,” they belong to the faithful members of the Church – in The Episcopal Church AND around the Anglican Communion – who are being denied full membership in the Body of Christ because of their same gender love. Is there even a single instance in which Jesus was willing to forego ministry, love and inclusion of the marginalized in order to protect the “sensitivities” of the Pharisees and Sadducees?! What would Jesus’ reaction have been to those same Pharisees and Sadducees if THEY had claimed to be the victims of Jesus’ insensitivity?“
The current controversy brings a desire for justice on the one hand into apparent conflict with a desire for fidelity to a strict understanding of the biblical tradition and to the main stream of the ethical tradition. Either party may be understood to be the meat-eaters, and each is reminded that their single-minded desire may be an idol. Either party might constructively also be understood by the other as the weaker member, whose sensibilities need to be considered and respected.”
There are MORE than TWO parties here. I would maintain that NEITHER the Episcopal Church NOR the vast majority of the Churches represented by the Primates are the “weaker members.” Rather I would say that the “weaker members” are those gay and lesbian members of the Church of Nigeria, whose Church is supporting the criminalization of all association between them in their country. The “weaker members” are the gay and lesbian members of the Episcopal Church, who have to go looking – sometimes in vain – for a congregation who will accept them as full members of the Body of Christ. The stronger/weaker dichotomy is NOT between The Episcopal Church and the rest of the Anglican Communion, but between the Anglican Communion in all its manifestations and the gay and lesbian Christians around the world trying to find a place within it. For the first time in its history, and at the hands of the larger Communion, The Episcopal Church may be experiencing a little taste of the irrational discrimination and exclusion that is an everyday experience of its gay and lesbian members.
“Each party in this conflict is asked to consider the good faith of the other, to consider that the weakness or sensitivity of the other is of significant import, and therefore to fast, or ‘refrain from eating meat,’ for a season. Each is asked to discipline itself for the sake of the greater whole, and the mission that is only possible when the community maintains its integrity.”
I certainly believe Paul when he says that no part of the Body can say to another, “I don’t need you.” On the other hand, I don’t ever recall Jesus saying that the “greater whole” is the be all and end all. Doesn’t Jesus challenge the greater whole to sacrifice itself for those on the margins? Preaching good news to the poor, binding up the broken hearted, releasing the prisoners and proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor involves SACRIFICE on the part of the greater whole. That’s part of what angered his own hometown synagogue when he preached these powerful words from Isaiah. Touching the leper required SACRIFICE of ancient and firmly held beliefs. Eating with sinners was a SACRIFICE of the greater whole’s sensitivities. I would humbly submit that such sacrifice is the only way that our “community maintains its integrity.”
“Justice, (steadfast) love, and mercy always go together in our biblical tradition. None is complete without the others. While those who seek full inclusion for gay and lesbian Christians, and the equal valuing of their gifts for ministry, do so out of an undeniable passion for justice, others seek a fidelity to the tradition that cannot understand or countenance the violation of what that tradition says about sexual ethics. Each is being asked to forbear for a season.”
Where is the “justice, (steadfast) love, and mercy” for the Church’s gay and lesbian people in this threat from the primates? While the vast majority of the Anglican Communion AND the vast majority of Episcopalians may be willing to “forbear for a season,” the world’s gay and lesbian Anglicans long to hear the words spoken to Jesus at his baptism: “You are my beloved. In you I am well pleased.” Who will speak those words to them, while the rest of the Church forbears for a season? How will we explain this “forbearance” to all those gay and lesbian Christians who have come to The Episcopal Church because, for the first time ever, they have believed that there is a place for them AT God’s table, not simply BENEATH it, hoping for fallen scraps? Are THEIR souls not worthy of salvation too? Does anyone relish the notion of trying to explain all this “forbearance” to GOD?
Allow me to offer an additional reading of scriptural references to “fasting.” In addition to St. Paul's “pastoral” fasting, should we not also consider Isaiah’s notion of “prophetic” fasting?

4Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist.Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high.6Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke,to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house;when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? (Isaiah 58: 4, 6-7, NRSV)

Fasting that focuses only on the self is not, in Isaiah’s mind, the most pleasing to God. For the past many months, the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion has spent far too much time and money and focus on this debate. I believe that the majority of us – certainly in The Episcopal Church, and possibly in the Anglican Communion as well – want to set this aside and get on with the work of the Gospel. What would it be like if we fasted in the way that God, through Isaiah, suggests: to fast from our internal squabbling for a season, and turn our focus to the world’s homeless, hungry and poor, in this and every land? What if we focused on what we say is our top priority – ministry to a world in pain through the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals – and simply fasted from this self-focus?
The changes in our polity proposed by the Primates can only properly and canonically be responded to by the laity, clergy and bishops gathered in General Convention in 2009. The Primates’ demands can be seriously, prayerfully and thoughtfully considered at that time. What if we stated, simply and calmly, that the Primates’ September deadline is impossible under our polity, and pledge ourselves to feeding, housing, and clothing the poor and binding up the physical and spiritual wounds of the world’s neediest for this season, until 2009? What if we gave up our internal squabbling for a season, took no precipitous action, and turned our focus to the world that Jesus Christ gave his life for?
This way forward may not be acceptable to many in the Communion who want this settled now, once and for all. So be it. Nothing we do will settle this once and for all. Does anyone believe that our full compliance with the Primates’ demands, our complete denunciation of our gay and lesbian members, or my removal as bishop would make all this go away?! We cannot determine what the response to our actions will be. We can only decide what our faithful response will be to the demands made of us.
If the response of the Archbishop of Canterbury to our prophetic fasting should result in our not being invited to the Lambeth Conference, then let us offer that denial as part of our fasting. Let us dedicate the diocesan and personal resources that would have been spent on Lambeth to projects involved in furthering the Millennium Development Goals.
During the debate over the consent to my election, I am told that the Bishop of Wyoming noted that not since the civil rights movement of the 60’s had he seen the Church risk its life for something. Indeed, I think he is right. This is such a time. A brief quotation hangs on the wall of my office: Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” Now is the time for courage, not fear.
I pray that in the days ahead, as the Executive Council meets in Portland, the House of Bishops meets in Texas, and the General Convention (the ONLY body which has the authority to respond to the demanded changes in our polity) meets in 2009, that we contemplate our call to “proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” to those who have been denied it for so long and commit ourselves to the kind of fast that is pleasing to the Lord.