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 Bishop Brian Ernest Brown

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.


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."

Sunday, October 12, 2014

My Name

My Name
By Brian Ernest Brown

what's in a name

it's certainly a beginning and yet also an end
born with a name full of hope, chained to a foisted definition

at another time eulogized on granite in a field full of the same, just a name

it's a package of expectations and remembrances shackled together by each letter

is it a definitive expression of who we are or simply a cage in which we must live

sometimes i wonder, what is my name

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Coming Out

"Coming Out" is such a loaded title. It's full of innuendo and salacious promise but now that I have your attention...

In some ways this has been a long time in coming, in other ways, it's quite anti-climactic. All of you reading this should already know who I am and for the most part what I'm about and how I live my life. After all, I'm quite prolific online with various blogs and social media platforms, where I share many of my thoughts, no small amount of my beliefs, and much of my life. I don't make much of a secret about anything, even if you must sometimes read between the lines.

That being said, I am also, in many ways, old fashioned and a product of a self-sufficient and private upbringing. I have never been one to wear my feelings on my sleeve nor share unnecessarily my own more intimate thoughts, practices, preferences, or orientation. If you should ask, I would tell you anything you wanted to know but in spite of my openness I am still shy and somewhat reserved and often keep my own counsel as it were. There's something to be said for a polite discretion, which is all too often lost in our society today.

However, there's also a lot to be said for standing up and being counted, especially in our ever evolving society, thereby lending our voice, identity, courage, and passion to the beautiful struggle for freedom and human rights for LGBTQIAPP (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersexual, asexual, pansexual, polyamorous) people everywhere.  It is in this spirit that I offer my truth so that I may inspire, empower, and encourage others to do the same.

Many of you know, some of you have guessed, and a few of you may be surprised but I am and always have been bisexual. It's has never been a phase, an exploration, a midlife crisis, a confusion, nor a convenience. I am not gay. I am not straight. At best, I'm queer, but more specifically I'm bisexual.  I'm also well aware of the ongoing and seemingly never ending dialogue in the queer community in regards to the term, definition, and usage of "bisexual" as a label of orientation. As much as I'm not interested in debating my sexual orientation, I'm also not interested in debating my identification, usage, and preference of the term bisexual to describe my sexual orientation. I have have been honored and humbled to have known the love of women and men and those in-between, throughout my life.  To know love, regardless of how it presents and how you label it, is a wonderful and God given thing.

But wait, that's not all...

As an approach to relationship possibilities I embrace polyamory.  While I have lived my life mostly in a series of monogamous relationships, at the request of my partner at the time,  polyamory is the deep and abiding way that I naturally experience relationship and love and when given a choice, I embrace.  You see, I believe love has no limits.  The more you give, the more you have to give.

What is polyamory you ask? Glad you did.

Polyamory is a word that, in short, means "many loves" and is somewhat synonymous with an open relationship status, though not always. It's complicated. Wikipedia, in part, offers this:

"Most definitions center on the concepts of being open to, or engaging in, multiple loving relationships (of whatever form or configuration) wherein all parties are informed and consenting to the arrangement."

If you're interested in more information on polyamory please take a look at Loving More's website:

So let's recap this "coming out" missive just for clarification, I'm a polyamorous bisexual person and have been so all of my life. This is the reality of my self-identity, my preferred relationship paradigm and part of who I am as a child of God, though certainly not the sum total of who I am.

I have never been shy about letting my voice be heard but I feel it's important to add my personal perspective and story to the cacophony of calls for equal rights for LGBTQIAPP (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersexual, asexual, pansexual, polyamorous) people. These "equal rights" are, after all, simply human rights.

Well folks, that's still my story after all these years and I'm sticking to it on this October 11 "#NationalComingOutDay" 2014.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Harvest Home

Autumn is falling on the Ozark Mountains, the leaves are changing and the air is crisp in the mornings and cool in the evenings.

The last of the harvest season is upon us. The pumpkin patches are full and soon the Great Pumpkin will arise from the Pumpkin Patch, or so Linus Van Pelt would have us believe. (And believe I do!)

In the Celtic tradition we approach the end of the year at Samhain or October 31st and we begin a new on All Saints Day November 1st.

At this time I always reflect over the year gone by. I think of all that has been harvested in my life, that which has been stored for the winter, and that which has withered and died away. Time changes and life marches on. The wheel of the year turns yet again.

Is your harvest greater than your loss? Is mine? Time will tell. Winter cometh.

Thursday, September 18, 2014


Like a sunset, some things are inevitable.
And too like a sunset, the inevitable may just be as welcomed.
Darkness is near and it will be time to rest.
It is inevitable.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Ex Cathedra Studio

From June 1, 2014

On this Feast of the Ascension, I would like to announce the opening of Ex Cathedra Studio in downtown Fayetteville Arkansas.

Upon moving to Fayetteville this last summer, I began looking for a space in which to be and to do, whatever I was to be doing or whatever it was I was to do – being. I know, I know, confusing, right?! Try being me!

Unsure as to whether to attempt a retail space, a gallery space, a studio space, a ministry space, or an office I began a wide search of possibilities. My search took me in many different directions but always seemed to bring me back to a particular location, a place that just felt right, but that never had an available empty space.

As I continued to look, I secretly, and sometimes not so secretly, longed for a space in this wonderful, funky, old building just off the square on Center Street. Finally, after much patience, prayer, and perusing of real estate listings on Craigslist I was able to secure a small space in that very same building.

The availability, nature, and location of the space actually informed my understanding of what kind of a space it was to be and what adventure awaited me within those four walls.

Tucked away down a hallway on the second floor of an old building just off the square, Ex Cathedra Studio lends itself toward quiet exploration, contemplation, and re-creation. It’s not a place of commerce per se, nor a place of corporate worship, nor even a place of labor alone but rather a place of pilgrimage to experience all of the above.

This is what I tell myself anyway, through an evolving understanding of the cloistered little space. Perhaps it’s all vanity but we shall yet see. I feel like I’ve just stepped into an old musty wardrobe and closed the door. I wonder what adventure awaits me!

“This must be a simply enormous wardrobe!” ― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Ex Cathedra – From the Chair of the Bishop.

Ex Cathedra Studio will serve as a studio, gallery, office, and oratory – a place of creation or re-creation or even recreation, as the case may be. In other words, it will simply be a place to be.

Should you find yourself in Fayetteville Arkansas, please don’t hesitate to drop by and say hello, share a story or a prayer, check out a book, and or maybe even paint! Who knows! There are even two wonderful restaurants on the first floor, one Greek and the other Thai, where we might share lunch. Just be sure and check in with me first though, as you never know where I may be.

“He’ll be coming and going” he had said. “One day you’ll see him and another you won’t. He doesn’t like being tied down–and of course he has other countries to attend to. It’s quite all right. He’ll often drop in. Only you mustn’t press him. He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Sunday, August 31, 2014

My Patron: Saint Melangell

This website/blog is dedicated to Saint Melangell, a long time patron saint of mine. She’s a wonderful wandering Celtic saint that spent her life trying to make a safe place for folks amongst the thorns, thickets, and brier patches of society and of the world.

The Legend of Melangell and the Hare

There is a legend that survives from long ago, known to Welsh school children who have learned it from their mothers’ lips. The legend concerns a maiden, an Irish girl whose father had arranged for her to marry a chieftain back in 607 CE. She did not want to marry this chieftain – he was old and she was young. She joined a band of Irish hermits who came across the sea to preach the Christian gospels to the Pagan Welsh. The maiden’s name was, in Latin, Monacella. In Welsh it became Melangell. She traveled to the Pennant Valley, in Powys, in the 7th Century and lived in a cave in the hillside.

One day Brochwel, mighty Prince of Powys, was out hunting with his men and his hounds. The hounds raised a hare that took refuge in a thicket. The hounds were urged on but fled howling. Their huntsman raised his horn to his lips and was unable to remove it. On pursuit, the Prince found a young woman standing there – the hare had run under her long skirts to hide. The young woman told Brochwel that she lived in the valley, where she had come to take refuge. The Prince was so impressed by the young woman’s godliness, that he granted her the valley as a sanctuary for people and animals. Here she founded a religious community.

Another Account Of Saint Melangell

The Life of Saint Melangell of Wales (+ca. 590) ST MELANGELL (whose name has been latinised as Monacella) is interesting because the incident for which she is known is a Welsh version of one that is known in various forms in several European countries. She appears in the pedigrees as a descendant of Macsen Wledig (the usurping Roman emperor Magnus Maximus), and according to her legend her father was an Irish king (probably Scottish, in its later meaning, is intended). She vowed herself to God, and when pressed to marry fled to the part of central Wales called Powys, where she remained hidden for fifteen years.

Then one day the prince of Powys, Brochwel Ysgythrog, came hunting in her neighborhood, and pursued a hare into a clearing of the forest where Melangell was at prayer. The hare ran for the shelter of her garments, and turned to face its pursuers from a fold of her skirt.

Brochwel urged on his hounds, but they drew off, howling; the huntsman tried to wind his horn, but it stuck mute to his lips; and Brochwel approached the girl for an explanation When he had heard Melangell’s story of herself, he made her a present of the land on which they were standing as a “perpetual refuge and place of sanctuary”, in recognition of God’s protection of the ” little wild hare” in the shadow of His servant Melangell.

Accordingly she lived the rest of her life there, another thirty-seven years, gathering a community round her which she directed as abbess. But it was also a meeting-place for hares, who never showed any fear of their protectress, so that they came to be called “Melangell’s lambs”.

The church of Pennant Melangell in Montgomeryshire claims to stand on the site of this happening, and it formerly contained St Melangell’s shrine. It still has some medieval carvings relating the story of the hare, and the shrine chapel at east end.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Masts at Dawn

Masts at Dawn
By Robert Penn Warren

Past second cock-crow yacht masts in the harbor go slowly white.

No light in the east yet, but the stars show a certain fatigue.
They withdraw into a new distance, have discovered our unworthiness. It is long since

The owl, in the dark eucalyptus, dire and melodious, last called, and

Long since the moon sank and the English
Finished fornicating in their ketches. In the evening there was a strong swell.

Red died the sun, but a dark wind rose easterly, white sea nagged the black harbor headland.

When there is a strong swell, you may, if you surrender to it, experience
A sense, in the act, of mystic unity with that rhythm. Your peace is the sea's will.

But now no motion, the bay-face is glossy in darkness, like

An old window pane flat on black ground by the wall, near the ash heap. It neither
Receives nor gives light. Now is the hour when the sea

Sinks into meditation. It doubts its own mission. The drowned cat
That on the evening swell had kept nudging the piles of the pier and had seemed

To want to climb out and lick itself dry, now floats free. On that surface a slight convexity
     only, it is like

An eyelid, in darkness, closed. You must learn to accept the kiss of fate, for

The masts go white slow, as light, like dew, from darkness
Condensed on them, on oiled wood, on metal. Dew whitens in darkness.

I lie in my bed and think how, in darkness, the masts go white.

The sound of the engine of the first fishing dory dies seaward. Soon
In the inland glen wakes the dawn-dove. We must try

To love so well the world that we may believe, in the end, in God.