Sunday, June 28, 2009


On July 1st I officially begin my ministry as the Assistant Rector at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Gaithersburg, Maryland in the Diocese of Washington. I am so grateful! This is a large and diverse parish, and I am certain that I will learn a lot and hope that I will contribute much!

I am grateful to so many people, especially to Church of the Redeemer, Bethesda, MD., and to Church of the Resurrection, Alexandria, VA., for their support during my ordination process including my time at seminary. I was grateful that representatives from these parishes and a respresentative from my original sponsoring parish, St. Thomas' Dupont Circle, were my presenters at my Ordination to the Sacred Order of Deacons on June 13th. A glorious and wonderful service! The sermon was especially wonderful thanks to preacher Judy Fentress-Williams!

I am grateful for the opportunity to attend the ordinations of friends and classmates in the Diocese of Virginia, the Diocese of Texas and the Diocese of Delaware. While in Texas it was wonderful to attend a Sunday service at St. Mark's Houston and to reconnect with so many friends from years ago. Likewise, at the ordination in Delaware I reconnected with a friend, now priest, from Arkansas who is serving a parish in Delaware. Small world! A wonderful reunion!!

I am so very, very grateful!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Liminal Time

The word 'liminal' is defined as "of, or relating to, an intermediate state, phase, or condition." Synonyms are 'in-between, transitional.' I am in liminal time - a transitional and in-between time.

On May 21st I received a Master of Divinity degree from seminary. It was a wonderful and joyfilled day. Bishop Barbara Harris was our commencement speaker and she, not surprisingly, gave a wonderful address.

This Saturday I will be ordained to the Sacred Order of Deacons in the Episcopal Church. I am eager to begin my formal ordained ministry and look forward to the Holy Spirit's movement on Saturday!

However, for the moment, I am in liminal time. I suppose, given the stress of finishing three years of graduate education or seminary, which included a full summer of hospital chaplaincy, a three-week immersion in Honduras to learn Spanish, and an immersion in South Africa last summer, that I should not be surprised that during this liminal time my body decided it could afford to get a bad cold because it needed rest. So during this liminal time I am resting, staying at home, drinking lots of fluids and trying to get rid of this cold.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Blessed Eastertide

He is Risen!! He is Risen Indeed!! Alleluia!!

Wishing you Easter Joy in the Risen, Living Christ!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Why Gay Marriage Matters

Great article by MICHAEL JUDGE in Iowa City, Iowa

I often tell friends that a part of me is gay, even though I've been happily married to my wife for 12 years. What I mean is that in April 2003 I donated a kidney to my older brother David, who is gay. The transplant took place at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics -- and it was, in a very real sense, a miraculous event for our entire family.

So when David called me last Friday excited about the Iowa Supreme Court decision making same-sex marriage legal, I wasn't surprised. "You know what this means, don't you?" he asked. "It means we can visit those we love when they're dying in the hospital; it means we're finally treated like family."

Most hospitals in America only allow spouses and immediate family members to visit a patient during a medical emergency, when a patient is unconscious or in critical condition after a car accident, heart attack or kidney failure, for example. These are the moments when our spouses are most needed, the moments when life and death decisions are made -- and, if necessary, goodbyes are said. My brother, whose kidneys failed when he was in his 30s, understands these moments.

Of course, this is just one example of how Friday's decision changes the lives of gay and lesbian couples in Iowa. As the court wrote in its unanimous decision, the 12 plaintiffs (six couples) expressed "the disadvantages and fears they face each day due to the inability to obtain a civil marriage in Iowa." These include: "the legal inability to make many life and death decisions affecting their partner, including decisions related to health care . . . the inability to share in their partners' state-provided health insurance, public employee pension benefits, and many private-employer-provided benefits and protections," and the denial of "several tax benefits."

"Yet, perhaps the ultimate disadvantage expressed in the testimony of the plaintiffs," the court continued, "is the inability to obtain for themselves and for their children the personal and public affirmation that accompanies marriage." In other words, they desire to be recognized as married couples, as a "family" to use my brother's word.

With Friday's ruling -- which upheld a lower-court ruling that rejected a state law restricting marriage to a union between a man and woman -- that desire has become law. As early as April 24, gays and lesbians will be able to exchange vows in civil services.

As for religious attitudes toward same-sex marriage, the court respectfully, and in typically plain-spoken manner, explains that "the sanctity of all religious marriages celebrated in the future will have the same meaning as those celebrated in the past. The only difference is civil marriage will now take on a new meaning that reflects a more complete understanding of equal protection of the law."

My brother and I and millions of Iowans are proud of our state at this moment. Others aren't. There are many (some of them beloved family members) who believe marriage, civil or otherwise, should only be between a man and woman; others aren't opposed to same-sex marriage but don't think the courts should mandate it. Indeed, there's a movement here in Iowa as in other states to amend the state constitution to define marriage as a union solely between a man and woman. (Such an amendment couldn't get on the ballot here until 2012 at the earliest.)

To this, I would simply ask why? Why blemish our constitution and narrow our definition of equal protection when our state has been a leader on such historic civil-rights issues as slavery, interracial marriage, women's rights, and desegregation?

As the court wrote in its decision: "We are firmly convinced the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from the institution of civil marriage does not substantially further any important governmental objective. The legislature has excluded a historically disfavored class of persons from a supremely important civil institution without a constitutionally sufficient justification."

Here's to marriage, a "supremely important civil institution." And here's to including, not excluding, kind-hearted people like my brother David, who want nothing more than to find the right person, settle down, and one day perhaps get married.

Mr. Judge, a fifth generation Iowan, is a freelance journalist and a contributing editor of The Far Eastern Economic Review.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Racial Reconciliation and Enlarged Hearts

These past two days at the seminary have been rich with lectures and music and discussion on the subjects of African American Spirituality, the Black Church and Music. The culminating event was a celebratory Eucharist today at Noon. All this in honor and remembrance of the Martrydom of The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Having visited the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN, I was able to picture exactly what Dean Pollard described in his opening address yesterday afternoon. We all must tell our own stories and listen to each others stories in truth and love, because only then will reconcilation happen and our hearts will be enlarged!

This editorial from the Washington Post provides some hope that we are on our way to that glorious day about which Martin Luther King Jr. spoke when "we will not be judged by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character." Thanks be to God!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Human Rights in South Africa

The world is in such pain. I fear for the safety of lesbians who are living their lives with integrity in South Africa.

Raped and killed for being a lesbian: South Africa ignores 'corrective' attacks• Women living in fear of brutal assaults by male gangs• Country's 'macho politics' lead to lack of action
Annie Kelly

Interviews with South African victims of 'corrective rape' Link to this video The partially clothed body of Eudy Simelane, former star of South Africa's acclaimed Banyana Banyana national female football squad, was found in a creek in a park in Kwa Thema, on the outskirts of Johannesburg. Simelane had been gang-raped and brutally beaten before being stabbed 25 times in the face, chest and legs. As well as being one of South Africa's best-known female footballers, Simelane was a voracious equality rights campaigner and one of the first women to live openly as a lesbian in Kwa Thema.

Her brutal murder took place last April, and since then a tide of violence against lesbian women in South Africa has continued to rise. Human rights campaigners say it is characterised by what they call "corrective rape" committed by men behind the guise of trying to "cure" lesbian women of their sexual orientation.

Now, a report by the international NGO ActionAid, backed by the South African Human Rights Commission, condemns the culture of impunity around these crimes, which it says are going unrecognised by the state and unpunished by the legal system.

The report calls for South Africa's criminal justice system to recognise hate crimes, including corrective rape, as a separate crime category. It argues this will force police to take action over the rising violence and ensure the resources and support is provided to those trying to bring perpetrators to justice.

The ferocity and brutality of Simelane's murder sent shockwaves through Kwa Thema, where she was much known and loved for bringing sports fame to the sprawling township.

Her mother, Mally Simelane, said she always feared for her daughter's safety but never imagined her life would be taken in such a way.

"I'm scared of these people that they are going to come and kill me too because I don't know what happened," she said. "Why did they do this horrible thing? Because of who she was? She was a sweet lady, she never fought with anyone, but why would they kill her like this? She was stabbed, 25 holes in her. The whole body, even under the feet."

The Guardian talked to lesbian women in townships in Johannesburg and Cape Town who said they were being deliberately targeted for rape and that the threat of violence had become an everyday ordeal.

"Every day I am told that they are going to kill me, that they are going to rape me and after they rape me I'll become a girl," said Zakhe Sowello from Soweto, Johannesburg. "When you are raped you have a lot of evidence on your body. But when we try and report these crimes nothing happens, and then you see the boys who raped you walking free on the street."

Research released last year by Triangle, a leading South African gay rights organisation, revealed that a staggering 86% of black lesbians from the Western Cape said they lived in fear of sexual assault. The group says it is dealing with up to 10 new cases of "corrective rape" every week.

"What we're seeing is a spike in the numbers of women coming to us having been raped and who have been told throughout the attack that being a lesbian was to blame for what was happening to them," said Vanessa Ludwig, the chief executive at Triangle.

Support groups claim an increasingly aggressive and macho political environment is contributing to the inaction of the police over attacks on lesbian women and is part of a growing cultural lethargy towards the high levels of gender-based violence in South Africa.

"When asking why lesbian women are being targeted you have to look at why all women are being raped and murdered in such high numbers in South Africa," said Carrie Shelver, of women's rights group Powa, a South African NGO. "So you have to look at the increasingly macho culture, which seeks to oppress women and sees them as merely sexual beings. So when there is a lesbian woman she is an absolute affront to this kind of masculinity."

A statement released by South Africa's national prosecuting authority said: "While hate crimes – especially of a sexual nature – are rife, it is not something that the South African government has prioritised as a specific project."

The failure of police to follow up eyewitness statements and continue their investigation into another brutal double rape and murder of lesbian couple Sizakele Sigasa and Salome Massooa in July 2007 has led to the formation of the 07-07-07 campaign, a coalition of human rights and equality groups calling for justice for women targeted in these attacks.

Sigasa and Massooa were tortured, gang raped and shot near their homes in Meadowland, Soweto in July 2007, shortly after being verbally abused outside a bar.

Human rights and equality campaigners are hoping that the public outrage and disgust at Simelane's death and the July trial of the three men accused of her rape and murder will help put an end to the spiralling violence increasingly faced by lesbian women across South Africa.

Despite more than 30 reported murders of lesbian women in the last decade, Simelane's trial has produced the first conviction, when one man who pleaded guilty to her rape and murder was jailed last month.

On sentencing, the judge said that Simelane's sexual orientation had "no significance" in her killing. The trial of a further three men pleading not guilty to rape, burglary and murder will start in July.

In Soweto and Kwa Thema, women seem unconvinced that Simelane's case will change anything for the better.

Phumla talks of her experience of being taught a "classic lesson" by a group of men who abducted and raped her when she was returning from football training in 2003. She says that "practically every" lesbian in her community has suffered some form of violence in the past year and that it will take more than one trial to stop this happening.

"Every day you feel like its a time bomb waiting to go off," she said. "You don't have freedom of movement, you don't have space to do as you please. You are always scared and your life always feels restricted. As women and as lesbians we need to be very aware that it is a fact of life that we are always in danger.", Thursday 12 March 2009 17.49 GMT Article history

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Happy Anniversary Bishop Barbara Harris!

Bishop Barbara Harris celebrates her 20th Anniversary as Bishop: the first woman Bishop in The Episcopal Church (USA). She is also going to be our graduation speaker this year at the Seminary!

From The Episcopal Cafe:

Bishop Barbara C. Harris, who recently celebrated the 20th anniversay of her consecration as the first female bishop in the Anglican Communion rates a passing mention and a nifty photo in this television review from The New York Times. Writer Ginia Bellafante points out that Bishop Harris' great-grandmother "was a slave who wound up in a confrontation with Gen. Ulysses S. Grant."

That the bishop had fiery ancestors will surprise no one who knows her.

The bishop also sat for an interview with Tracy J. Sukraw of the Diocese of Massachusetts. Of the troubles currently roiling the Communion she said:

I think the whole Windsor process is an overreaction, which leads me to talk about the covenant, which I don't believe we need. I think our baptismal covenant is sufficient. We certainly do not need a juridical covenant; but rather, if we must have one, then it ought to be more relational in nature than designed to punish. I think that the pastoral council that is being suggested is an added layer of ecclesiastical bureaucracy that we do not need. We need to simply trust each other that we are acting in the best interests of our respective provinces. Interventions and crossing provincial boundaries need to stop. That is not a solution to controversies within a province.

The controversies of the day are not anything new. Controversy has always been present in the life of the church from her earliest, earliest days. There is an introductory comment on Paul's letter to the Colossians in which it says: the unity, stability and survival of the church was threatened by doctrinal diversity. This is nothing new. I think of the centuries that it took to reach agreement on the doctrine of the Trinity. Some folk want us to settle complex issues without even delving into them in any meaningful depth. And I think that schism is real, because we have competing claims of orthodoxy and other claims that are cause for hostility and division. A covenant or a Windsor Report [is] not going to quell controversy.

Posted Jim Naughton on February 26, 2009

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ash Wednesday Quiet Day

The seminary community observed a Quiet Day on Ash Wednesday which included two powerful meditations by The Reverend Mpho Tutu. I invite you to listen to them as you begin an observance of a Holy Lent. Cut and paste this link into your browser:

Monday, February 16, 2009

Hymn's Power As Black Anthem Endures

by Adelle M. Banks Religion News Service Saturday, February 14, 2009

When the Rev. Joseph Lowery was chosen to offer the closing prayer at President Obama's swearing-in ceremony, he knew which hymn he would borrow to start his prayer.

"God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, Thou who has brought us thus far along the way," he prayed, invoking the third verse from "Lift Every Voice and Sing," the hymn that's long been considered the unofficial black national anthem.

"Thou who has by Thy might, Led us into the light, Keep us forever in the path, we pray."

The words rang out across the Mall that day, and again the next day at the Washington National Cathedral in the sermon preached to the new president. For more than a century, they have been used to mark special occasions, including the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and have become a staple for Black History Month each February.

Lowery, a retired United Methodist minister who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with King, said he thought the song was entirely appropriate for the inaugural of the nation's first African American president.

"It had historicity; it had the religious context," said Lowery, who has used the third stanza as a regular hymn of praise in his worship services for 25 years. "The black experience is sort of wrapped up in that hymn."

Although Lowery has always called it a "national hymn" because he didn't think the nation should have two separate anthems, many African Americans give it the same honor as the traditional national anthem: They stand when it is sung.

"It is our 'Star-Spangled Banner,' " said Jackie Dupont-Walker, social action director of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which is why many African Americans respectfully stand when the hymn is played.

"Lift every voice and sing, 'til Earth and heaven ring," the song begins. "Ring with the harmonies of liberty." Its words include echoes of slavery and triumphs of freedom, moving from the "dark past" to a present hope and looking toward the "new day" ahead.

The song traces its roots to a 1900 celebration of Lincoln's birthday in Jacksonville, Fla., according to a 2000 book, "Lift Every Voice and Sing: A Celebration of the Negro National Anthem." James Weldon Johnson penned the words for the occasion and his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, set them to music.

"Our New York publisher, Edward P. Marks, made mimeographed copies for us and the song was taught to and sung by a chorus of five hundred colored schoolchildren," he wrote in 1935.

The song that would catch on across the country initially "passed out of our minds," Johnson wrote. But children kept singing it, he said, passing it on to other children. Soon the song was pasted into the back of hymnals, Bibles and schoolbooks.

The song grew in popularity when Johnson became an executive of the NAACP.
"It was sung at the opening of every meeting," said Roland Carter, who arranged the popular concert version of the song and is a professor of American music at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. "And 'We Shall Overcome' would be the closing anthem."

In one sign of how popular the song became, Carter's arrangement was played in space to awaken astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 2006.

Now that a black man presides at the White House, some have wondered whether the country still needs Black History Month, much less a black national anthem. The Rev. Vinton Anderson, a retired bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, sees a future for the hymn.

"I think we should continue the tradition of singing it," said Anderson, who helped place the song in the AME Church's bicentennial hymnal in 1984. "It reminds us of where we are, where we've come from and where we hope to go."

The Rev. Bernard Richardson, dean of the chapel at Howard University, believes the hymn isn't just for black Americans. "I think it speaks to the hopes of, particularly, African Americans throughout our history," he said. "But also I think the song is one that not only gives hope but it also challenges to stay the path and to recognize the importance and significance of God in the struggle for freedom."

Though the hymn is a staple at African American gatherings -- from church services to convocations at black universities -- it has been embraced by people of a range of backgrounds. The song is included in Methodist, Lutheran and Episcopal hymnals, among others.

The Rev. Sharon Watkins, president of the predominantly white Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), chose the same stanza of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" as Lowery did when she preached at the National Prayer Service the day after Obama's inauguration.

For a moment, when she heard the civil rights veteran use those same words in his prayer, she had second thoughts about using them.

"But I just thought, no, this belongs to everybody," Watkins said. "Those James Weldon Johnson words, they're just powerful."

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Prayer at the Inaugural Concert

+Gene Robinson's Prayer for President-elect Barack Obama
A Prayer for the Nation and Our Next President, Barack Obama
By The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire
Opening Inaugural EventLincoln Memorial, Washington, DCJanuary 18, 2009

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

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…
Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Jim Naughton on January 18, 2009 2:22 PM

Saturday, January 10, 2009

GOEs - They're Finished!!

Here's my window of support and the final card that says "Celebrate. You're Done! I am so grateful for all of the gifts, notes, kindness, thoughts, prayers and support that was shown to me and to all my classmates during our week of GOEs.

This was an intense week of writing and answering questions and worship and collegiality among my classmates. I feel good about the work and responses I submitted. Time will tell how the 'readers' evaluate my responses. No matter the grades I was reminded that I am still a beloved child of God.

Thanks be to God!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

GOEs - Six Down, One to Go!

By tomorrow at 12:30 PM GOEs will be over! This has been an incredible week and the outpouring of support from so many people has been amazing.

The questions could have been much more difficult and the experience that much more painful. As it was, I feel like the questions were reasonable, at least so far! Church History is tomorrow morning. History is not my strong suit, but I'll do my best as I have with all of my responses.

Time will tell if my responses score a 4, 3, 2 or 1. The top 2 are 'passing grades' and the later 2 are 'not passing grades.' The 'grades' should come out in late February or March. But for now, I'm reveling in the fact that I've almost finished this week of comprehensive examinations! YIPPEE!!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

This is my room in the guest house at seminary where I have moved my books in order to take the General Ordination Exams (GOEs). I am pretty comfortable except for the desk chair. It is really not comfortable for a 3 1/2 hour exam, but the pillow makes it a little better. I suppose I could have moved my office chair from home, but it took all my strength to carry my suitcase up to the second floor!!

Today, Weds, is a day of rest from GOEs. I'm more than 1/2 way thru the process of comprehensive exams that every senior seminarian must experience in the United States! On Monday the questions were about 1. Holy Scripture and 2. Theology & Mission. Tuesday's questions were about 3. Contemporary Society and 4. Liturgy. Tomorrow's questions are about 5. Ethics and 6. Practice of Ministry and Friday's question is on 7. Church History.

The most amazing aspect of GOEs is the support that we all have received in terms of emails, notes on Facebook, care packages, baked goods and prayer partners. My prayer partner, who is traveling in Jerusalem with other students from seminary, even put a prayer in the Wall this week. Most awesome!!

Speaking of support, here's just a small sample of what I've received! And notice the balloons on the bed (above)!! Thanks everyone!!!!

Monday, January 5, 2009

General Ordination Exams

For more than 3 years, ever since my Bishop made me a postulant, I have lived in anticipation of GOEs - General Ordination Exams. These are the comprehensive exams every Episcopal seminarian in the United States must take during their senior year. There are 7 sets or exams ranging from Holy Scripture to Church History. For some tests seminarians may only use limited resources, i.e. Bible and Book of Common Prayer, or open resources, i.e. anything your heart desires. For more information check out

The 2009 General Ordination Exams started today! The first exam was available at 9AM and was on Holy Scripture with limited resources - Bible & BCP. The 3-page answer to needed to be submitted by 12:30PM. Then at 1:30 PM the second exam was available and was on Christian Theology with open resources due by 5:00 PM. I am taking the exam in a guest room at the seminary where I moved all of my books yesterday. It's comfortable to be on campus and nice to be with my classmates during lunch and our breaks.

We are also gathering in the chapel after the last exam of the day to share Eucharist together. It's a special time.

The juniors and middlers are taking good care of us, and a whole cloud of witnesses are keeping us in their thoughts and prayers. The GOEs are a requirement that have to be faced, and with the love and support of family and friends and complete strangers I am confident that "All Will Be Well." Thank you everyone!