Extracurricular Vicar

Banners suitable for St. Luke's Cathedral, Orlando.

Banners suitable for St. Luke’s Cathedral, Orlando.

[UPDATE: I looked at various registration forms and decided that I’d better check with our diocesan web developer first.]

For a couple of weeks now I’ve been juggling some off-site issues affecting the Church, and today I’m wanting to rebalance. Both concern public screwups by Episcopal clergy: at General Theological Seminary, which is nearing collapse if not already there, and at St. Luke’s Cathedral in Orlando, where the dean refused to baptize a baby with two Gay dads.

We featured the latter yesterday at Morning Prayer, and a few hours later the news got reported by The Huffington Post and The Orlando Sentinel. I helped facilitate the HuffPo article – in a minor way, probably, but their religion editor the Rev. Paul Raushenbush contacted me and I did what I could.

(Aside: he’s a descendant of Walter Rauschenbusch, the “social gospel” theologian and author whose feast day is July 2.)

I’ve also been in touch with him about a letter I wrote with 19 co-signers, asking the Attorney General of New York State to investigate whether laws have been broken at GTS. I organized that initiative on Facebook. It’s been reported in three or four church publications in the USA and Britain.

These activities have taken my time, and they’re not directly related to The Daily Office. I should have been organizing our retreat this summer at Waycross and putting together the registration form I promised to post last Monday. I hope to get to that later today.

I don’t really feel bad about any of this; if anything I feel proud of what I’ve done, whether it’s ultimately effective or not. But I feel this tension between my job and my vocation.

For some reason God seems to have given me an ability and a willingness to speak up and take action about problems other people notice but don’t know what to do with. I’ve done it all my life. What seems obvious to me does not seem obvious to anyone else – but when I propose a way forward, they respond with real help and support.

I seem to be one of those fools who rush in “where angels fear to tread” – except it’s never the angels who are afraid, it’s the humans. From marching with a few hundred others in the Stonewall 5 demonstration in New York when I was 23 – back when these were protest marches, not “Pride Parades” – to saving the School of Social Work from the wrecking ball at my alma mater, to being the first openly-Gay person to use his full, real name in the newspaper in Cincinnati, to freeing Nigeria’s only Gay activist from threats on his life by the government and Anglican Church thugs, to starting the world’s second oldest AIDS organization and many more examples, I just find myself at the center of the action sometimes.

When I was an undergraduate, the president of the University of Cincinnati wanted to abolish the College of Community Services and move the School of Social Work  from there to the College of Education. It would have meant that Social Work lost its accreditation; it could be an independent School or part of a similar professional college, but not education. Students and faculty wrung their hands, no one knew how to stop the president, the board of trustees were getting ready to vote on it - when I piped up and said,

When I was an undergraduate, the president of the University of Cincinnati wanted to abolish the College of Community Services and move the School of Social Work from there to the College of Education. It would have meant that Social Work lost its accreditation; it could be an independent School or part of a similar professional college, but not education. Students and faculty wrung their hands, no one knew how to stop the president, the board of trustees were getting ready to vote on it, our degrees would soon be worthless – so I piped up and said, “I know how to stop this.” We organized (“Yes for CCS!”), made up flyers, contacted the media, held a protest march, I ran for the Student Senate; 33 years later the urban university still has an accredited School of Social Work. I continue to marvel at all the impotent hang-wringing; “social work” refers to community organizing, not cranking out caseworkers and psychotherapists.

If I’m correct that this is part of my vocation from God, you can see why I get caught up in such things and don’t feel sorry about it later.

I'm from this era. Not the giant public party era, brought to you by some brand of vodka. (Leonard Fink)

I’m from this era. Not the giant public party era, brought to you by some brand of vodka.

We’re going to get that baby baptized, I promise; the homophobic bishop is meeting with the parents right now as I write this, trying to tap-dance his way out of the public relations disaster he and the cathedral dean created. The baby’s parents have done everything Episcopalians ask and expect of them prior to baptism, and there is no justification for delaying this child’s salvation, no matter how warped the theology of that dean.

This is the baby waiting for salvation and for justice, snoozing next to one of his dads. The kid's name is Jack; let's pray for them.

This is the baby waiting for salvation and for justice, snoozing next to one of his dads. The kid’s name is Jack; let’s pray for them.

(The dean’s theology of baptism probably isn’t what’s warped, it’s his theology of human sexuality; but since he mixed the two up in one horrible decision, my phrase applies. Phrases are what I’m good at, if you haven’t noticed; phrases are how I’ve won almost every public battle I’ve ever been in.)

So now I’m going to post two more services, and try to design that registration form with a free trial from Constant Contact. I’m also awaiting a call from our Adobe Connect salesman.

Meanwhile here’s a video by the labyrinth designer John E. Ridder of Indianapolis, whom I’m trying to line up for our retreat. I walked on one of his portable mazes last Saturday during a quiet day at my parish, run by Amy Paget, who will be staffing our retreat.

Pray that God gives me enough hours in the day.++

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