Tag: House of Bishops

Be a witness for the earth.

As summer fades into fall, we are always taken aback by the sudden changes in color, the cool mornings and warm afternoons. Western Massachusetts is some of God’s most beautiful earth – from the Blackstone to the Housatonic. We are observing Creation Season with ecumenical partners all over the world. It is a time for gratitude and for conversion.

We are slowly waking up from our denial about climate change. Young voices are calling to us to do now what will profit the world we will leave to them. Like many I have been moved by Greta Thunberg, the young Swedish climate activist who captivated the UN, sailed across the Atlantic to avoid the carbon exuded by airliners, and who speaks for an entire generation. This young voice and many others are calling the adults in this world to act – to give climate justice pride of place in the long global to-do list.  And a little child shall lead them (Isaiah 11:6b). Thunberg in no child, but neither is she, by our standards, a person with power. Yet, she is using her voice in a way that is moving hearts and changing minds. It’s time for the adults “in charge” of things to get with the program. We have limited time now to reduce our carbon footprint. It’s time to move from “business as usual” to a new mode of awareness and activism.

For months now young people have done monthly school walk-outs to witness to the urgency of climate change. On September 21st our young people are leading a global climate strike. They are asking adults to leave their places of business and their homes and to join them. There will be events for seven days all around the world to highlight the plight of the earth and share problem-solving platforms and strategies.

On Friday, September 20, Springfield folk can participate in the Climate Strike Solidarity Vigil 12:30 PM, Court Square. Later that day in Northampton, join the Climate Emergency March for a Just Future will start with a march at 4:30 p.m. from Sheldon Field, Northampton, followed by a rally at 5:00 p.m. at City Hall. Our Missioner for Creation Care, the Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, will speak at both of these actions. Visit globalclimatestrike.net and you’ll see that there are strikes scheduled in Greenfield, Williamstown, Pittsfield, Worcester and more!

The climate strike rally in Boston will be among the largest in the nation. The schedule below shows you what’s happening throughout the day. 

I will be at the fall meeting of the House of Bishops that day. Bishop Marc Andrus and I are organizing a public witness in which the whole HOB leaves our meeting at 1 pm on Friday. We will walk across the bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will speak.

Not everyone can leave work. If you can’t join the strike locally or in Boston, why not make September 20th a day for personal climate action?

September 20th will go down in the history of this movement as the day adults walked away from the important in deference to the urgent. It’s time for us all to have their backs – the youth who lead this movement and will live with the consequences of our inaction. Be part of the Global Climate Strike and be a witness for the earth, our fragile island home.


When Pilate was governor and Herod was king…

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog called “Desiring a Christ-Centered Life, Not a Trump-Centered Life.” Apparently it struck a nerve, as I received more responses (mostly positive) than any other blog I have written. I wrote “In a troubled time, the Church is made to call people to be our best selves, to live from God-filled souls, to imagine God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This blog will attempt to explore further what that means.

One of the best theology teachers I ever had is Michael Himes. He taught me at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, NY, and now teaches at Boston College. Michael once said, “This is the most important line in the entire Bible.”

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness (Luke 3:1-2).

Why is this the most important verse in the Bible? Michael said it shows that our faith is based in reality. Our faith is not based on “Once upon a time…” This is not a fairy tale. It is not an abstraction. Luke goes out of his way to tell us in this time and in this place, “when Tiberius Caesar was in the 15th year of his reign, Pilate was governor, Herod was king… the word of God came to John in the wilderness.”

We, too, have an incarnational faith. We live our transcendent faith in this time and in this place. We listen for the Word of God that comes to us in the wilderness of confusion, in the midst of anxiety and fear.

I have said that our mission is the same as it was before Donald Trump was elected president. It is to follow Jesus in his mission of mercy, compassion and hope. Or, in the words of our Presiding Bishop,

“We are the Jesus Movement that is out to change the world from the nightmare it is for so many into the dream God has for it.”

That has not changed, but because this is not an abstract faith, context matters. What does it look like now to be the Jesus Movement when Donald Trump is President, Charlie Baker is governor and Warren and Markey are senators?

Here is what it has looked like so far. Interfaith gatherings abound. When the nation seems to be coming apart, people of faith are coming together.

When the ERA failed to be ratified, the struggle against gender bias in the workplace and in government continued on the grass-roots level. Now, women are claiming their power and equality in our city streets.

Even as we seem to have forgotten that we are a nation of immigrants, voices cry out for compassion, herald the blessing of diversity and name the Church as sacred space for those who live in fear.

The Environmental Protection Agency is in the hands of one who doubts that human activities impact climate change. The institution established to protect “this fragile earth, our island home,” has been compromised. Yet…

LGBTQ persons continue to experience discrimination in spite of momentous gains. Transgender youth and adults are facing the most invasive assault on their privacy and dignity. But…

In March, 2016, meeting at a time of great political uncertainty, the House of Bishops said “the church is made for times like these.” We need to build on this activity, but do so from a place of deep prayer. The “political” activity of John the Baptist and Jesus is well-documented. Mark 6:17-20 tells the story of John’s arrest after protesting Herod’s marriage. In Luke 13:31-32, Jesus speaks out against Herod – “that fox” who will not stop him from healing and casting out demons. Like John and Jesus, we must walk in the wilderness with God. We are still listening for the Word of God to come to us in this time and in this place.

Long after the reigns of Emperor Tiberius, and Pontius Pilate and Herod and Annas and Caiaphas, Jesus mission of mercy and compassion and hope continued throughout history – beyond good times and bad – and we know it will until God’s Dream for the world is fulfilled.


Desiring a Christ-Centered Life, Not a Trump-Centered Life

The frenetic and often controversial activity of the new administration dominates the news, and it is often the main topic of conversation in families, with friends, at our places of work. Certainly, the President is at the center of attention in our country right now, and for some that brings worry and fear.

In this time of anxiety, I invite the Church to stay Christ–centered. I said after the election that the mission of the Church remains the same as it was before the election – to follow Jesus in his mission of mercy, compassion and hope. That is what we are called to do and to be no matter who the president is.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us “You are the light of the world.” You ARE the light of the world. Not “someday you will be the light of the world.” Not “you ought to be the light of the world.” You ARE the light of the world. What would the light of the world look like in this time and in this place? How can we stay Christ-centered now?

More and more, I’m learning from Buddhists who say theirs is not a religion but a practice. Christianity, too, is a practice; it is a way of living. In this blog, I hope to offer some practical ways to stay Christ-centered in this era.

  • Increase time spent in prayer and reduce time watching the news, whether it is MSNBC or Fox. Stay in touch with what is going on in our world. But how much do we really gain watching four hours of news instead of one or two? Thomas Merton warned us that constant activity is a form of violence. Take time, now more than ever to live from the soul. Buddhist Jack Kornfield writes,

“Whatever your point of view, take time to quiet the mind and tend to the heart. Then go out and look at the sky. Remember vastness… Remember the Noble Truths, no matter the politics of the season: Greed, hatred and ignorance cause suffering. Let them go. Love, generosity, and wisdom bring the end of suffering. Foster them.”

  • Make friends with someone on “the other side” of the political aisle, or keep a friend who has differing political views. People are more than the sum of their political opinions. I’ll always remember in 2003 in a sermon I strongly denounced the imminent invasion of Iraq. One of my parishioners, a former member of the Nixon administration, told me how wrong he thought I was. A few days later he became ill and was hospitalized. I went there and prayed with him. We talked and he said, “Doug, we will never let a war get between us, will we?” And we never did. In our time when our nation is so divided, show how friendship can go beyond opinion.
  • Whenever there is an interfaith service in your region, go out of your way in your time-poor life to go to it. And not just once. And if there are no interfaith services near you, start one. As the world feels like it is coming apart, we need to come together.
  • I invite church leaders in our Episcopal diocese to consider saying “The Baptismal Covenant” at every Sunday liturgy in place of the Creed. The Creed gets covered in the first three questions and then we are asked five questions about our commitment to a Christ-centered life. We need an affirmative answer to all five questions, and especially now, we need the last two:

“Will you seek and serve Christ in ALL persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?”

“Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” With God’s help, we can do that.

I was asked a series of questions in the liturgy when I was ordained a bishop.

I keep all those questions before me daily, but the one that challenges me the most is,

“Will you be merciful to all, show compassion to the poor and strangers, and defend those who have no helper?”

The answer to all the questions is “I will…” but always followed by a different clause. Sometimes, it is, “I will, for the love of God.” Or, “I will, by the grace given me.” For me, the answer to that question has become, “I will, for the sake of Christ Jesus.”

For the sake of Christ Jesus. A Christ-centered life means standing with the poor, the stranger (immigrants, refugees) and those who have no helper (those without health insurance, the environment). There are others that fit into my parentheses. Those who are discriminated against: women, people of color, indigenous people, LGBT people, Muslims. Those who have lost jobs due to automation, down-sizing and technological advancements. Those who cannot get jobs because they are experiencing homelessness or because they were once incarcerated. Those who are addicted who wind up in jail instead of rehab.

I was the one who answered the question, but as a faith leader I was answering for all of us. Calling elected officials, participating in the political process, engaging the American right to peacefully protest in order to stand with “those who have no helper”- we do this for the sake of Christ Jesus.

At the House of Bishops gathering last September, we reflected on the political turmoil in our beloved country and created a document in which we said, “The Church is made for times like these.” In a troubled time, the Church is made to call people to be our best selves, to live from our God-filled souls, to imagine God’s will which is to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

With all that is getting our attention right now, we are all invited to Christ-centered lives. Let’s practice Christianity in the midst of an uncertain world. Let’s follow Jesus in his mission of mercy, compassion and hope. In the words of that great African-American spiritual, let’s keep our “eyes on the prize,” our hands “on the Gospel plow,” and “hold on.”


A Statement on the Resolutions Regarding Marriage Adopted by the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church

July 2, 2015

The Church is all about Jesus’ mission of mercy, compassion and hope. Sometimes in our broken world, that vision of God’s love for all people can feel very far off. But this week in Salt Lake City, the elected leaders of the Episcopal Church have made some decisions and commitments that make that Reign of God feel a little closer.

One of those decisions concerns marriage equality. We approved liturgies for trial use that will treat all couples equally in marriage. This means true marriage equality. The marriage between two people of the same sex is equal to the marriage of a woman and man. I rejoice in this decision.

We made this decision in the context of forty years of debating and moving forward in our recognition of the full inclusion of LGBT people in our Church and in our society. I am grateful to all those who have been prophetic and all those who have been patient as we grew in our understanding of our LGBT brothers and sisters.

Because there is marriage equality in Massachusetts, I gave permission to our Episcopal clergy to celebrate marriages between same sex couples two years ago. So the decision of our General Convention meeting in Salt Lake does not radically change things here, but it does give us some new liturgies to use and expands our language in these services.

While marriage equality is now the law in all fifty states, there are still dioceses in the Episcopal Church where marriage equality has not previously been permitted by the bishop, as well as priests within our own diocese and others who cannot in good conscience officiate at same sex marriages. In those places we have decided that it is now up to the Bishop to make arrangements for same – sex marriages, perhaps by bringing in another priest to officiate or by having the couple go to a church that is willing to host them. In so doing, the intent is for the Episcopal Church to continue to be a “big tent” that allows for diversity of opinion.

We are blessed by all couples who commit themselves to faithful love. They make God’s Reign of Mercy, Compassion and Hope come alive.


“Somebody’s talkin’ ’bout Jesus”: Reflection in the Midst of General Convention

gun violence prayerful procession 182“Everywhere I go, Somebody’s Talkin’ Bout Jesus.” (Traditional Spiritual – this refrain is sung frequently at the House of Bishops)

Those who follow this blog regularly will not be surprised to hear that a highlight for me of this 78th General Convention meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah was the March through the streets of the city early Sunday morning “Claiming Common Ground Against Gun Violence.” 1500 people gathered to say “no” to the public health crisis that is gun violence and “yes” to background checks. We said “no” to the “Unholy Trinity” of poverty, racism and violence and “yes” to the Holy Trinity who offers a new creation. This was a public witness to our faith and it is exactly such public witness that is at the heart of Christianity. Christianity is not about the church (although we need Church to have Christianity because we are a communal faith). Christianity is about engaging the Spirit that changes the world. Faith without action is just opinion.

Faith without action is just opinion.

I feel most alive taking the faith to the street. At the risk of sounding like a five year old, I get impatient in meetings. And General Convention is mostly meetings – from 7 am to late at night. But those meetings, as hard as it is for me to sit still during them, are a public witness of our faith as well. In those meetings we make decisions about how we will live out our faith. What will we stand up for? Because money is a resource for mission, what we choose to spend our money on is a public witness to what we value. Even in those meetings, “somebody’s talkin’ ’bout Jesus.”

In those meetings, faithful people stay united even in the midst of disagreement as to what we value and what we should do in a complex world. An example close to home for me is the issue of divestment from fossil fuels. Yesterday, to my joy, the House of Bishops voted to call churches and church organizations to divest from fossil fuels – something we have already done in Western Massachusetts as our Trustees have led the way. To my disappointment, they voted to take the Church Pension Fund out of that list of organizations we are urging to divest. I am disappointed but I am blessed to be part of a church where we can have these discussions. And I think, if we stay faithful and keep making the case, the Church Pension Fund ( led by good people ) will come around to addressing what might be the most important issue of our time.

pb mc 065

Someone who talks about Jesus often and from the heart is Bishop Michael Curry. We just elected him to be our Presiding Bishop for the next nine years. Every time Michael preaches, my spirit soars. He is an inspirational leader who proclaims a prophetic word embodied in the Gospel. The excitement about his election runs throughout the Convention. I know he will capture the public imagination. He will be to our Church what Pope Francis is to the Roman Catholic Church. Michael radiates joy flowing from God’s love and the tough mindedness of the Prophets calling for a radical conversion of our society.

The liturgies at General Convention are incredible. The music touches the soul, the preaching inspires, the faith of those gathered is an opening to the Spirit. One day Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori preached on the Mark text where Jesus raises a twelve year old girl whom every one thought was dead. Katherine started her sermon with “Get up girl. You aren’t dead yet!”

Our Episcopal Church is not dead. It might have been asleep for a while, but now it is waking up. This is a new, exciting day. And “Everywhere I go, somebody’s talkin’ ’bout Jesus.”