Thursday, November 20, 2014

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2014



Introduction Given at the Transgender Day of Remembrance 2014
St. Martin's Episcopal Church Fayetteville Arkansas
By Bishop Brian Ernest Brown, OSH
I Wonder Did You Know You Were Making History 
By Stephanie Mott 
In honor of those who have walked openly in the light and in memory of those who have suffered the violence of ignorance and oppression 2011 Transgender Day of Remembrance. 
I wonder did you know, you were making history, you were setting people free, when you died. 
I wonder did you know, we would ever know your name, our lives would never be the same, because you tried. 
I wonder did you know, we would come to love you so, and I wonder did you know, you were making history. 
I wonder did you know, we would stand up to insane, we would reach beyond the pain, because you cried. 
I wonder did you know, we would learn to stand up tall, tell the truth to one and all, for those denied. 
I wonder did you know, we would come to love you so, and I wonder did you know, you were making history. 
The lives we live we owe to you, and I wonder did you know, you were making history. 
I wonder did you know, we would finally learn to fly, we would fly beyond the sky, because you tried.
I wonder did you know, we would finally say no more, we would open up the door, please come inside.
I wonder did you know, we would come to love you so, and I wonder did you know, you were making history. 
I wonder did you know, you were making history, you were setting people free, when you died. 
-For Rita Hester
Let us pray.

Giver of Breath and Lover of our Soul, we thank you for the great witness of Rita Hester and all those who have gone before us who have suffered bigotry, hatred, persecution, and sometimes death.

In particular, on this Transgender Day of Remembrance, let us remember those who have identified as transgender or gender non-conforming, who have blazed a path for each of us to follow in our own unique and diverse way, with their very lives. We thank you for those lives, the courage of those who lived them, and the light they shone on the path for the rest of us to follow.

Help us to be ever mindful of the pain, injustices, and discrimination perpetrated against so many who are simply trying to live out their lives to be who they were created to be.

Give us the grace and strength to live our lives so courageously, authentically, and fearlessly that we too offer others, who follow after us, permission to be themselves so that they may join us on the path toward acceptance, inclusion, compassion, and love. Amen.

Marianne Williamson from her book A Return to Love offers: "As we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

I want to speak just briefly about how far we’ve come, specifically how far we've come since the Stonewall Riots of 1969. I was only ten days old. Now just briefly, for those who may not know what I’m referencing, The Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the gay community against a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. They are widely considered to constitute the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBT rights in the United States.

My how far we've come since those days! In large part thanks to those who have gone before us, some of whom are still with us, and many of whom have passed away, and still others who laid down their lives for the cause whom we remember today.

For those of us who were born around that time or afterwards, it’s hard to see the progress we’ve made because we sometimes lack perspective and often take so much for granted getting caught in our own struggle towards equal rights. But here we are openly holding a Transgender Day of Remembrance and no one is breaking down the door and carting us away to jail or worse. Thank goodness. Thank justice. Thank courage. Thank those whom we remember today.

We live in a day and age where, with some exceptions, albeit too many exceptions because one exception is too many, transgender folk can legally be married. A big difference from 45 years ago. However, there’s still so much more work yet to be done.

We live in a day and age where, with some exceptions, albeit too many exceptions because one exception is too many, transgender folk are able to more easily and freely transition into who they were created to be, than they were 45 years ago. However, there’s still so much more work yet to be done.

We live in a day and age where, with some exceptions, albeit too many exceptions because one exception is too many, transgender folk are gaining equal rights within community after community. Look at our struggle in our own dear Fayetteville and the struggle of Springfield, MO, our neighbor to the north, which have both passed sweeping Civil Rights Ordinances for LGBT folk. That was just a dream 45 years ago. However, as we all well know, there’s still so much more work yet to be done. Vote against the repeal!

Even so with all this progress, the papers, or probably more accurately in this day and age, Facebook, too often, because once is too often, tells us stories of bigotry, discrimination, abuse, and sometimes murder of transgender or gender non-conforming folk.

So the struggle is far from over and a struggle it is. However, please remember as we struggle for equal rights let us not so much seek to do battle with one another, for in battles there is a winner and a loser, but rather let us seek to become reconcilers, for in reconciliation, one to another, our human family can finally begin to grow together in acceptance, peace, respect, and ultimately love and that’s what we’re really struggling for.

So even though there’s more work to be done, have hope, we’re on the winning side of history and we shall overcome!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Litany of Thanks for Diversity, Empowerment, and Reconciliation


This is a litany I composed for the opening prayer at a workshop on Gender Identities and Our Faith Communities sponsored by PFLAG and held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Fayetteville, AR November 8, 2014. What a dynamic, courageous, and passionate group of folks. I was very honored and humbled to be asked to offer the opening prayer.

Litany of Thanks for Diversity, Empowerment, and Reconciliation

By Archbishop Brian Ernest Brown, OSH


Creator of life and giver of breath, you called us into being, each of us becoming a unique and special, living example of your love of diversity. And for this,

We give you thanks.

You have called us to offer witness and to celebrate this gift of diversity throughout your creation, by empowering others to see the beautiful possibilities of life and of love open to us all without exception, by the example of our very lives. And for this,

We give you thanks.

You have called us as a community here in this time and place, to show the world that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersexual, asexual, pansexual, and polyamorous people can be people of faith and that we are people of faith. Our queer community, empowered by mutual acceptance and embraced by mutual love, is accomplishing beautiful things within this community, and indeed communities everywhere. And for this,

We give you thanks.

Help us in our struggle for equal rights that we not so much seek to do battle with one another, for in battles there is a winner and a loser, but rather that we seek to become reconcilers, for in reconciliation, one to another, our human family can finally begin to grow together in acceptance, peace, respect, and ultimately love. And for this,

We give you thanks.

Help us to be cheerful, orderly, and polite, civil, honorable, and sensible, discerning and discreet, generous, welcoming, and friendly, open-handed, truly loving, and full of humanity so that we may from a place of courage and hope, embrace a hostile world. And for this,

We give you thanks.

Help us to be willing, worthy, and respectful; and let us be outstanding for kindness and mercy, ministering to the wounded, the confused, the angry, the frightened, the lonely, and the lost so that we may become a living example of what it means to love one another as ourselves. And for this,

We give you thanks.

Knit us together in this community so that one to another, we become a strong and unbreakable support system. Bind us with a bond of peace that cannot be loosened and bind us with a bond of love that cannot be broken. And for this,

We give you thanks.

All these things we hope for, pray for, and give thanks for, in the name of that which is Love.

Amen!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Validity, Legitimacy, & Education

Recently I had the occasion to dialogue with a young priest in the ISM (Independent Sacramental Movement) on Facebook. While he wasn’t necessarily young in age, he hadn’t been ordained long.

The conversation started with some folks talking about the need for better training for clergy in the ISM, or rather, perhaps more accurately, they were picking apart an ISM seminary long ago closed.

They disparaged much of the nonsense that goes on in the ISM in regards to clericalism and lack of education and in those regards I would agree with them.

I certainly agreed with most everything they said and have said as much myself many, many times over the years, and yet out of the ISM, there are still good folks of deep faith out there doing good works and making a difference in this broken world by sharing the Gospel Message.

Where I disagreed with them was in their conclusion that the only legitimate way forward was to ordain only those folks with an accredited Master of Divinity. 

What was particularly and delightfully demonstrative of my counterpoint in the conversation was when the young priest touted his own degree from Yale Divinity School, I believe, and then asked what the acronym “ISM” stood for. 

Now, anyone who’s spent any time in the ISM knows it stands for the Independent Sacramental Movement, a moniker made popular by Bishop John Plummer in his book, “The Many Paths of the Independent Sacramental Movement” which should be standard reading for any cleric involved in the ISM. 

I asked the young priest about his affiliation and he said, “I’m not an independent, I’m an Anglican priest.”

He could have been an Episcopal priest, meaning a member of the clergy in The Episcopal Church of the United States and that might explain his ignorance of the ISM acronym but I doubted it and so I pressed on.

After more questioning I discovered he was a part of a group that claimed to be Anglican but was not a part of The Episcopal Church nor in communion with the wider Anglican Communion.

I gently corrected him, educating this graduate from Yale Divinity School, that he was indeed a part of the ISM. I stopped short of pointing out that he wasn’t Anglican at all unless he was in communion with the greater Anglican Communion. The reality of the fact would have fallen on deaf ears.

His ignorance underscored my point that we, in the ISM, must train our own and not rely upon the mainstream educational institutions to do it for us. Simply put, they don’t know who we are or much about our own venerable traditions.

I’ve said all of that to say this:

I live by a simple saying: “They won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Our validity will never be found in goofy titles, silken vestments, and photo-shopped pictures. However it won’t be found in academic degrees, accreditation, and professional credentials either. We mustn’t fall into the trap of shunning one set of contrived trappings and yet embracing another in our grasp for legitimacy and validity.

Our validity as ministers of the Gospel will only ever be found in our servitude to Christ and our compassionate and loving ministry to our brothers and sisters and in our continual work to make manifest the Commonwealth of God here on earth.

Many of us may not be perfect but we try at least to be faithful.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Perfect Love and Perfect Trust



















The Wiccan Rede

Bide ye Wiccan laws ye must, in perfect love and perfect trust.
Live and let live, fairly take and fairly give.
Form the circle thrice about to keep all evil spirits out.
Soft of eye, light of touch, speak ye little, listen much.
Deosil go by the waxing moon, singing out ye Witches' Rune.
Widdershins go by the waning moon, chanting out the baneful rune.
When the Lady's moon is new, kiss your hand to her times two.
When the rippling waters flow, cast a stone and truth ye'll know.
When ye have and hold a need, harken not with others' greed.
With a fool no seasons spend, lest ye be counted as his friend.
Merry meet and merry part, bright the cheeks and warm the heart.
Mind ye threefold law ye should, three times bad and three times good.
When misfortune is anow, wear the star upon thy brow.
True in Love ye must ever be, lest thy love be false to thee.
In these eight words, the Wiccan Rede fulfill
"An' it harm none, do what thou wilt."