Saturday, March 24, 2007

Bronson Dudley

This evening we had a memorial dinner for Bronson Dudley, the father of my (step)daughter Jane and the first husband of my wife Liz.

Among those present were Jane and her husband Scott , Liz and I, Bronson's widow Caroline, Jane's second cousin Carol, and other friends and neighbors.

Bronson was an actor and playwright (I am reminded that W. S. Gilbert insisted on being called a dramatist rather than a playwright.) None of his plays hit it big, but he had a successful early career as a dancer on the stage and a late career as a character actor in TV and films. His most memorable film role was Bill in Steve Buscemi's 1996 Trees Lounge. The picture at the right is from that film. Bronson was born January 27, 1920 and died Shrove Tuesday, February 20, 2007. At the request of his widow Caroline, the announcement of his death was delayed.

A little Googling found me this item from Time, dated Monday May 11, 1936 (I was 20 days old) about Bronson's older sister Doris:
In the Manhattan apartment of 30-year-old Pulitzer Prize Dramatist (Men in White) Sidney Kingsley, blonde Actress Doris Dudley (End of Summer), 18-year-old daughter of Radio Theatre Critic Bide Dudley, flounced into the bathroom, shot herself in the breast with a .22 rifle. A suicide note was found. Day after the shooting, which caused only a minor wound, the two renewed announcement of their engagement, said the suicide story was bosh, that the shooting was an accident.

You gotta remember, folks, that one of my hats is as a genealogist (aka family historian), and I just report what I find.

More later

Thursday, March 22, 2007

My Goodness!

My goodness! As I have mentioned before, every week to ten days I have to undertake a three hour drive to Binghamton to assist with my mother’s finances and the like. This time it was actually eleven days since I had been there. When we returned eleven days ago, we left an internal light on in the car with the result that the battery was dead when I wanted to set out late Tuesday morning. (Here in Manhattanit's common not to need the car for weeks at a time.) I got off two hours later and arrived at my mother’s just in time to make supper for her. (This time Liz stayed home.) I had decided for once not to take my computer, so I was shut off from the internet tubes from about 10 AM Tuesday to close to 3 PM Wednesday.

As some of you who read this blog know, there was some important news from Navasota, Texas Tuesday, March 20th. I knew nothing of this Tuesday night when I began to write in my notebook:

March 20, 2007
The first night of spring.
I’m writing this at my mother’s. I’ll have to type it in when I get back because for once I didn’t bring my computer.
A lot has happened since I last posted.

The Presiding Bishop declared the election of Mark Lawrence as Bishop of South Carolina to be “null and void.” More on that a little further on.

On Friday, March 16th, about a dozen folks participated in the Great Litany and the Supplication, with additional collects, sung in procession opposite the United Nations. Four of us were from St. Mary’s and two from the Episcopal chaplaincy at Columbia University. There were a few people from the Episcopal Church Center at815 Second Avenue which is only a block away. The weather was terrible – it was cold, windy, and sleeting.. I was pressed into service as crucifer. Singing the Litany in procession is an antiwar witness we at St. Mary’s have been doing each Lent since the buildup to the invasion of Iraq four years ago. We’ll do it again this week – the weather promises to be better.

On Sunday, Liz and I were readers at the 10 AM service. I read about the entrance of the Israelites into Canaan – I did not update the text to say
“The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelis no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of the Palestinians from that year.”

Liz read 2 Corinthians:
“If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Then on Sunday afternoon, Liz and I marched for peace with thousands of others here in New York. There were about eight of us from St. Mary’s – at least two were there because Liz spoke passionately at our announcement time about the importance of marching – at St. Mary’s announcements come between the blessing and the dismissal.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

So that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
I don’t know whether this is a far out interpretation or not, but when I ponder 2 Corinthians 5:21, I think of it as a liberative view of the atonement: God made Jesus to be a sinless sin offering so that we might show forth God’s righteousness. Not so that we might be made right with God – that would be tautological – but so that we, all of us, might become God’s righteousness.

There was a substantial religious contingent in Sunday’s march for peace. We were being God’s righteousness in that place. Of course we weren’t stopping the occupation – we were only bearing witness. But there is more than one way to be the righteousness of God.

It must have been over a week ago that MadPriest said in a comment that those on the other side in the current troubles in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion are evil and that they have chosen to follow Satan and they know it. Since I don’t have my computer right now, I can’t check my recollection and find out exactly what he said. I myself be am sure that those who are out to split TEC and the Anglican Communion are under satanic influence (or the influence of the “powers” as William Stringfellow and Walter Wink put it.) I cannot be as certain as MadPriest that they are knowingly following Satan.

The powers were certainly at work in the election of Mark Lawrence and the debacle over consents to his election. The presenting issue for much of the church was whether Fr. Lawrence could unequivocally state that he would not lead South Carolina out of the Episcopal Church. Apparently he got the consents of a majority of the Standing Committees, but not enough of the consents were in the form that our canons have required since 1799. The responsibility for getting sufficient consents from Standing Committees and in the proper form rests with the Standing Committee of the electing diocese, In this case, at the very least, it appears that the Standing Committee of South Carolina fell down on the job. The result is pain for Fr. Lawrence and his family, pain for a lot of others, and a black eye not just for South Carolina but for the Episcopal Church. That’s the powers at work.

And that’s the end of what I wrote out by hand on Tuesday night.

Then on the way home, I tried to formulate my thoughts about the issues the bishops were addressing at Camp Allen. I came up with something like this:

Those who attempt to define progressive Christians as “reappraisers” and themselves as “reasserters” are either self-deluded or disingenuous. Reappraisal is at the heart of the gospel – “You have heard it said ... but I I say....” And it isn’t just Jesus who gets to reappraise, even in scripture. And at the same time, reassertion is also at the heart of the gospel – “on these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
TEC (along with other so-called “liberal “ churches) needs to clearly articulate cogent hermeneutical principles to support our assertion and belief that the justice teachings of scripture trump the “texts of terror.” It would also be helpful for the church to openly criticize the common prejudicial translations in Corinthians and Timothy.
In this matter, becoming the righteousness of God means bearing witness and standing up for the full humanity and equality of women and of LGBT people both inside and outside of the church. Women’s rights and LGBT rights are linked – so are violence against women and LBGT people. And both are linked to issues of race and class. I need to explore this topic more – right now I am concerned with what will come out of the meeting of the bishops of TEC.

Those are some of my thoughts from the three hour car trip home.

Then I got home, and when I discovered the statements that had come form the House of Bishops on March 20, I was astounded and happy. A few days ago, Elizabeth Kaeton wrote that the schism has already happened. That was not a new thought -- but it is good way to name a rwal truth. I am pleased that the majority of the bishops of TEC recognize the truth that underlies that thought and have chosen not to engage in the dysfunctional and unAnglican dance the Primates have asked us to join.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Left Forum

On Saturday, March 10, the Religion & Socialism Commission of DSA (Democratic Socialists of America) sponsored a panel at Left Forum 2007. The topic was Progressive Realism: Neo-Conservatism & the American Empire, and the panelists were Gary Dorrien, Rima Vesely-Flad, and Harvey Cox. A few weeks ago I blogged about Gary Dorrien's installation as Reinhold Neibuhr Professor at Union. The afternoon session, and much of my comment, dealt with Dorrien's most recent book, Volume Three of The Making of American Liberal Theology. Dorrien's talk on Saturday at the Left Forum was a return to the topic of his 1993 The Neoconservative Mind: Politics, Culture and the War of Ideology. Liz reviewed that book in 1995; (Gary Dorrien was pleased to meet Liz for the first time after the Saturday session and he told her how much he liked the review.)

The title of the panel, "Progressive Realism," is a reference to Christian Realism, associated with Reinhold Niebuhr. Some of the early neoconservatives, notably Michael Novak and Richard John Neuhaus, have Christian Realism roots. The neoconservative movement itself has divergent streams -- there is a "realistic" critique on the right of the foreign policy aims of the present Bush adminstration. There are also progressives who have Christian Realism roots, for example two of the speakers on this panel, Gary Dorrien and Harvey Cox. Dorrien suggests that progressives might be able to find common ground with realists on the right in resisting some of the madness of the current Bush administration.

Rima Vesely-Flad spoke about the prison-industrial complex, the growth of the private prison industry and the problem or reentry and employment for released prisoners, which is her primary focus.

Harvey Cox spoke in particular of the Theocons, term trhats be en around for over a decade and is the subject (and title) of a recent book by Damon Linker. Cox suggested that religious progressives need an alliance with evangelicals on the left. (My notes on that are sketvchy and I can't reconstruct what he said -- but I think he must mean something to the left of Christian Churches Together.)

During the Q&A, someone asked about Chris Hedges' American Fascists, which I mentioned in a recent post. Both Harvey Cox and Gary Dorrien think that Hedges is being alarmist, but they agree the dominionist movement is indeed dangerous and bears watching carefully.

Gary Dorrien was a student of Harvey Cox (as was Chris Hedges.)
Rima Vesely-Flad is a docotral candidate at Union and Gary Dorrien is her advisor.

Michael Novak and Richard John Neuhaus were members along with Harvey Cox and others of a CALC (Clergy and Laity Concerned) delegation to visit Vietnam war deserters in Paris and Stockholm in 1968

Lent III

The past few days have been packed full. There was another trip to Binghamton (Liz and I both went this time) and then there was the Left Forum 2007. All of that meant that I was not able to keep up with blogs from early Thursday morning until Sunday afternoon.

I did see that Tobias Haller posted some meditations he delivered at a retreat for the six candidates for the diaconate in this Diocese of New York. I haven’t read them yet, but I have printed them out. The deacons were ordained at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on Saturday morning while I was at Cooper Union attending the Left Forum.

This morning at St. Mary’s, new Deacon Emily Sieracki, who was jointly sponsored by St. Mary’s and the Episcopal Chaplaincy at Columbia University, served as deacon for the first time. Emily read the Gospel, administered the chalice, and dismissed us. Since I was pressed into service taking up the collection, I did not see whether she prepared the table. She did not lead the prayers of the people, which is a traditional diaconal function not mentioned in the rubrics. Anyway, it was a pleasure to have a deacon at St. Mary’s again. Emily’s parents were there, as were some friends.

Our preacher this morning was our seminarian, Miguel Escobar, who is a senior at Union Theological Seminary and is at the beginning of the discernment process towards ordination. (Miguel was received into the Episcopal Church last spring while in seminary. Since we are very close to Union, over the years we have had a fair number of folks in that position.) I can’t do Miguel's sermon justice so I won’t even try, although I enjoyed and admired it very much.


On Friday March 16th at noon, and again the following Friday, we will go down to the Isaiah Wall opposite the UN and will chant the Great Litany in Solemn Procession. St. Mary's has sponsored this every Lent since the US invaded Iraq. These are the only times I have ever seen the Supplication used.

We invite all who can make it to join us.



I recently decided to change my Blogger display name. I chose the name Morningsider when I was considering writing anonymously about my coop, Morningside Gardens. I later decided not to hide my real name when I was writing about the Episcopal Church, and I began signing my posts “Allen Mellen.” Then, since no one else was using the name Allen on the blogs I frequent, I decided that there is no longer any reason to use a pseudonymous nom de blog.

One good reason for anonymity is protect the privacy of others. For example, one of my relatives has a need to enter a MICA (Mental Illness / Chemical Addiction) facility. I have provided some assistance to this person – both moral support and transportation when I am able. Since this person, like many of my relatives, lives in my hometown of Binghamton, New York, I have been able to provide transportation only when I am in Binghamton to help my mother out – about once every week to ten days. Binghamton is 180 miles from New York and it takes three hours to get there – for both safety and sanity reasons I generally stay overnight so as not to have to drive both ways in one day. When I went up two weeks ago I tacked on an extra six hours – we used my car to take my relative for an interview another 125 further on from Binghamton. Fortunately my relative did the driving to the interview and back, so I was relatively fresh – despite all that time in the car -- and was able to drive home safely alone. If I were anonymous, I could tell you the relationship of that person to me, the gender of that person, and so on. But I’m not anonymous and I do feel a responsibility to protect the privacy of my relative.

Grandmère Mimi recently wrote about the possible effect on her in her community if she is outed as a blogger. Since I decided to blog under my own name, I am spared that worry.

Monday, March 05, 2007

It Ain’t Over till It’s Over

Last night, the Executive Council of TEC issued a Letter to the Church.

Here is an extract:
Executive Council recognizes that the requests made by the Primates, directed to the House of Bishops and the Presiding Bishop, raise important and unresolved questions about the polity of the Episcopal Church and its ecclesiology. We have authorized the appointment of a work group to consider the role, responsibilities and potential response of the Executive Council to the issues raised by the Primates. The work group will make a report and recommendations at the June 2007 meeting of the Council.
We wish clearly to affirm that our position as a church is to welcome all persons, particularly those perceived to be the least among us. We wish to reaffirm to our lesbian and gay members that they remain a welcome and integral part of the Episcopal Church.
Further, we offer our prayerful affirmation to all who struggle with the issues that concern us: those who are deeply concerned about the future of their Church and its place within the wider Communion, and those who are not reconciled to certain actions of General Convention. We wish to reaffirm that they too remain a welcome and integral part of the Episcopal Church
This statement is already being perceived as too weak by some on our side of the aisle (that locution is adapted from Elizabeth Kaeton.) See for example this comment by crucifer at daily episcopalian:
Need I remind any reader here that that's exactly the same statement that any conservative, homophobic member of this church would say? They insist we are "welcome and integral" and "disordered" and "in need of repentance."
For the life of me, tonight I cannot tell the difference between TEC's Executive Council and the Network or AAC.
In a comment at Father Jake’s, I said
I, too, would like to see Executive Council make a stronger statement but I see two problems -- the first and most serious is B033. I don't think Executive Council has the authority to contradict B033, much as I wish they would.
Second, this is really early in the process. We are not quite three weeks into the process of responding to the communique.

Susan Russell points to a "verbatim" from the discussion around the final draft of the Executive Council report-out-letter here. (And may I just say: GO BUTCH GAMARRA!!!!). ( I don’t want to link direct; so go via Susan or daily episcopalian.) I second Susan’s kudos to Butch Naters Gamarra (who was briefly Rector at St. Mary’s in the early 1980s. Another Executive Council member, Winnie Varghese, also spent time at St. Mary’s and is now just up the avenue at Columbia University.)

Now that I’ve read the “verbatim,” I want to downgrade the importance of B033 and emphasize the fact that it is really early in the process. By my count, the communique gave TEC 31 weeks to respond. Executive Council’s letter came at the end of the third week. I am impressed that we have made so much progress.

It’ll be an uphill struggle to persuade moderates that we need a strong response. That struggle is going on now. It has to conducted with patience, love, and determination.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Some thoughts on the "ultimatum"

This morning, Saturday March 3, at Enough About Me Mark suggested that “It might be a good thing to let PB Jefferts Schori know how many of her national flock are displeased about the communique and her handling of its explanation.” and send emails to her.
I think that’s a good idea and I’m going to follow it, even as events move forward -- Executive Council is meeting now and in two weeks the House of Bishops will meet.

Especially since the PB’s webcast this past Wednesday, I have been trying to organize my thoughts and produce a cogent post. Unlike many, I don’t hear ++KJS urging TEC towards an acceptance of what she calls a season of fasting; rather I hear her attempting to be non-directive. But as I said in a comment at the daily episcopalian, she might as well be urging capitulation.

I see this clearly (or maybe I have this distorted view) because not so long ago I myself was trying in a non-directive way to lead an organization as it struggled to make a crucial decision on a question that by its nature was divisive. I feel that I failed the organization, not because of the outcome of the decision, but because in my hands that non-directive style of leadership produced a process that exacerbated rather than ameliorated the divisions. One reason for my failure is that organizationally I was alone. Bishop Katharine is not alone and is not necessarily doomed to failure.

There are deep divisions in TEC and the Anglican Communion – divisions that cannot be ameliorated in the near term. The presenting issue is homosexuality, but I see other and deeper issues – the place of women in the church and ultimately, as +Gene keeps saying, patriarchy.
Tobias, in An Immodest Proposal, says that while no one “has a need or right to be a bishop ... it is unjust to exclude persons or classes of persons without good cause.” That’s of course true, I suggest, however, that such exclusion is more than simply unjust – it is a manifestation of evil. That sounds over the top – but I mean it seriously. The Episcopal Church, as Jim Naughton has documented in Following the Money is under a well funded attack from the right. I tend to think of it as an attack by the “powers,” as delineated by William Stringfellow and Walter Wink. In other terms, I believe it is an attack related to or even part of the “war on America” by “Christian” dominionists –a war that is the subject of the new book by Chris Hedges, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the war on America.

Those within and on the fringes of the Episcopal Church who are influenced by dominionism are among those who have made alliances with some of the Primates. (I’m being cautious here – I don’t have any reason to impugn the motives of any specific person in TEC – even those I most disagree with.)

I am convinced that it is important for TEC not to give in to the demands of the Primates to draw back from its commitment to LGBT folk – whatever the costs in terms of the our relations with other Anglicans. In fact TEC’s commitment to LGBT folk needs strengthening; we should make our decision on rites for blessing same sex unions without regard to other Anglican churches. To do otherwise would be to make an idol of the Anglican Communion.

As I contemplate Bishop Katharine’s public statements since Dar es Salaam, I am becoming convinced that she has had it too easy. Her election as Presiding Bishop was only possible because of a great deal of struggle and sacrifice by women (and men) who came before her. She is standing on the shoulders of giants. I remember, for example, the passion and pain in Carter Heyward’s preaching at St. Mary’s in 1973 and 1974 when she told us of her early realization that she would not be allowed to be a priest because she was a girl. And I remember the vilification Carter and the others endured after their ordination to the priesthood on the feast of SS. Mary and Martha in 1974.

Last week, when MadPriest first posted a picture of Bishop Katharine as Neville Chamberlain returning from Munich, I thought he had gone too far. I’m still don’t think it’s fair to ++KJS, but I am convinced that it is based on an accurate assessment of the extreme position among the Primates. I’m impressed that Jonathan the Mad Priest saw that right off. The other day, I discovered the blog of Fr. Christopher Hofer, who was a seminarian at St. Mary’s, and that evening Christopher posted a pastiche that he and his partner Kerry wrote on Pastor Martin Niemoller’s poem “First they came for the communists.” Christopher and Kerry’s version begins “First they came for the gays.” On page 201 of American Fascists, Chris Hedges reminds us that days after Hitler came to power in 1933 he "imposed a ban on all homosexual and lesbian organizations.” LGBT people make easy targets when the goal is the suppression of dissent and the imposition of authority for authority’s sake. The concentration on homosexuality by certain Primates (and their US allies) should be a danger sign to us and make us want to run as fast as we can in the other direction.

In Future Shock Alvin Toffler wrote “If you don’t have a strategy, you will be permanently reactive and part of someone else’s strategy.” It is time for TEC to be proactive. Marshall, in Brainstorming for Bishops suggests that the bishops of TEC might propose their own draft Covenant and fast from the Lambeth Conference next year. Tobias has put forth An Immodest Proposal. I agree that progressives owe moderates a case that goes beyond the mere assertion “Because it’s right.” I am not willing to suggest that TEC give an inch to the far right in our church. They are playing for keeps and we should play for keeps.

As I was putting the final touches on this, I discovered that today Tobias posted some thoughts on a meditation from last June by Thomas Bushnell on Acts 11:1-18.
I need to reflect on it, but at first glance my thoughts in this post seem consonant with an approach based on the principles Thomas Bushnell derived from this passage in Acts.