Monday, November 25, 2013

Lessons from National Cathedral's new admission fee.

This morning, a story broke that Washington National Cathedral will begin charging a $10 admission fee ($6 for children and seniors) for weekday visitors starting in January.  (The fee is only for tourists. People will be able to come in and pray free of charge.)

Criticizing this decision is easy. Our gut tells us that our churches should be open spaces where people can freely come in to pray and worship God in the beauty of holiness. But there is a price tag attached to that openness. The cost of running Christ Church Cathedral and keeping our building open is high ... and that is peanuts compared to what it takes to keep National Cathedral up and running even before the millions of dollars of damage was done by the earthquake in August, 2011.

So even though their decision makes me sad, I won't criticize it because I haven't been in the room looking at the figures they are looking at. I can only trust that these are faithful people who are doing the best they can. I pray for them, and I hope you will, too.

But this development is instructive for us -- for all congregations, really, but particularly for cathedrals like us.

We talk often of the three roles of a Cathedral. We are a worshiping congregation, a "mother church" for the diocese, and also "sacred, public space for downtown, St. Louis and the region." (National Cathedral adds a national civic role on top of that).

The budget we just passed includes $355K in pledges from members of the Cathedral congregation. Those pledges are the result of the experience of Jesus Christ people have had in this congregation that has led them to give in gratitude as part of their discipleship.

But Christ Church Cathedral is not sustainable on pledges alone ... and not on pledges and endowment income, either. For us not just to survive but thrive, we need the support of the community around us who isn't here on Sunday morning. And that support has to be earned. We have to show we are serious about our mission to be a place of reconciliation for the city, a place that "serves all passionately as a Cathedral."

In short, we have to inspire the city so profoundly that it can't imagine Christ Church Cathedral not being here. We have to be such an essential part of downtown and regional life that the people of this city and region will give to support the work that is going on here for the common good.

Hays Rockwell, the bishop who ordained me, used to remind his clergy that churches got an exemption from taxes because they were meant to serve the common good ... and that any church that was only open on Sundays should start paying taxes.

We are committed to serving the common good because that's what Jesus calls us to do. It's why we are hosting Lafayette Preparatory Academy. It's why we host town hall meetings and conversations. It's why our default answer to community groups using the space is "Yes" ... unless there is a compelling reason to say no.

And it is beginning to make a difference. And in 2014, we're going to use the barometer of giving to see how far along we are on that road to being seen as essential for downtown and the region.

In 2014, we will restart and repurpose "Friends of Christ Church Cathedral." It will be a way for people who aren't part of the Cathedral congregation to support financially the ministry of this Cathedral to be a force for reconciliation, sacred public space, and where all St. Louis comes to work together for the common good. We have set a modest goal of $5,000 for the first year but hope we will be exceeding that.

Any money we raise will, of course, help us keep the doors open and the lights on. But that is not the main reason we're doing this. We are doing this because just as the congregation feels like Christ Church Cathedral is theirs, and just as the diocese feels that Christ Church Cathedral is theirs, we need downtown, St. Louis and the region to know Christ Church Cathedral is theirs. To know that as a building, a people and an institutional presence, we are indispensable to us being our best selves as St. Louis. And to know that Christ Church Cathedral is worth supporting not because we are just a beautiful building but because we are helping St. Louis make ourselves a city that makes glad God's heart.

I grieve for National Cathedral because I know this decision for them is a painful one. I pray we will never be faced with this option. But the best way to ensure that for us is to continue on the road we are on throwing open our doors and inviting the city inside. To continue resolute that we exist not for ourselves but to serve all passionately as a Cathedral in Christ's name.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Missouri Supreme Court and Kelly Glossip: A shameful chapter ... but not the final chapter.

I write letters to the editor with great hesitation, because I find they often generate much more heat than light -- and generally find the comments sections after them to be petrie dishes of some of the worse angels of our human nature. But today's ruling by the Missouri Supreme Court against our brother, Kelly Glossip -- particularly because it involves the state trying to ill-define a sacrament of the church -- needs comment. And we as Christ Church Cathedral are uniquely qualified to testify that what Kelly and Dennis had was as much a marriage as Robin and mine. 

I have sent this to the Post-Dispatch. I hope it represents our community well. Please keep not only Kelly but all those who are collateral damage of discriminatory laws in your prayers ... and may we all be rededicated to shaping those laws to reflect our best selves.

Yesterday, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled 5-2 that Kelly Glossip was not entitled to survivor benefits from the state pension system because, despite their 15-year relationship, he was not legally married to Missouri Highway Patrol Corporal Dennis Engelhard, killed in the line of duty on Christmas Day, 2009.

On one level, the logic of the decision is irrefutable … an airtight syllogism: Receiving benefits requires you be married. In Missouri, two people of the same sex cannot be married. Therefore, in Missouri, a same-sex partner cannot receive benefits.

This argument might be legally sound, but it fails on a human level and is not worthy of us as a compassionate and just society.

Kelly and Dennis were parishioners of ours at Christ Church Cathedral. Dennis is buried in our memorial chapel and to this day, Kelly remains a part of this community. Like many other couples of same and differing sexes in our congregation whose commitment to one another is absolute and whose love for one another witnesses to Christ’s love for the world, make no mistake, Kelly and Dennis were married. Not in a way that was recognized by the state. Not even in a way that was recognized by the Episcopal Church. But in ways that count on that human level -- in the eyes of one another, in the eyes of their community, and in the eyes of God.

For thousands of years, people of faith have held that marriage is not so much a piece of paper but a quality of commitment to one another that recognizes that the two become one in self-giving love. A commitment that enriches not just the two but all society. That marriage is a relationship of joyful intimacy and of help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity. Make no mistake, Kelly and Dennis had a marriage. All that was missing was institutional sanction.

The Missouri Supreme Court has ruled that it is the institutional sanction – not the years of dedicated care for one another – that matters. It is a failure … and is indeed, in the words of dissenting Justice Richard B. Teitelman, a continuation of a “shameful history” of discrimination based on sexual orientation.

But the good news is the final chapter of this history has not yet been written. And that is up to us. We must rededicate ourselves to writing the next chapter of this history. A chapter where the constitutional changes are made that recognize that no two people who have the depth of commitment and love that makes marriage one of the foundational institutions of our society should be denied its rights, responsibilities or benefits. A chapter that changes our founding documents so they no longer fail on that most basic, human level, but fulfill their highest purpose – to call us to our best selves as a compassionate, just society.

The Very Rev. Mike Kinman
Dean, Christ Church Cathedral
Downtown, St. Louis, Missouri

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

To proclaim the Gospel boldly. To embrace diversity joyfully.

Here are some of my thoughts about the request by Pursuit Communities to use some of our space on Sunday morning. This is my first shot with iMovie and something happened with the sync-up of audio and video that I don't know how to fix ... so I hope it isn't disconcerting! But I'm posting this anyway because I don't want you to just read words from me on a page. I want you to hear my voice and see my face (even if they aren't always in sync). And I want us to do the same to one another -- hear each other's voices and see one another's faces.

in Christ's love,

Christ Church Cathedral’s 10 Rules for Respect

It's always good to have a refresher in these. These are our community rules for how we live out our baptism in treating one another. I am indebted to Bishop Greg Rickel of the Diocese of Olympia for the version from which this is adapted.

1. If you have a problem with someone, go to them in person privately and speak to them lovingly.

2. If someone comes to you with a problem with someone else, encourage them to talk with that person.

3. If someone consistently will not approach the person with whom they have a problem, offer to go with them to help.

4. Assume the best motivations of one another and don’t try to guess each other’s intentions and motivations. When in doubt just ask, “Why are you saying that?” or “Why are you doing that?” or “Why is this important to you?”

5. If someone tells you something in confidence, don’t tell. The only exceptions are if a person is going to harm her/himself or someone else or if a child has been physically or sexually abused.

6. Do not read or write unsigned letters or notes.

7. Speak your own truth for yourself. Don’t say “lots of people think . . .” to try to add weight to your point. Speak your own truth and let other people do the same.

8. When in doubt, just say it—as lovingly as possible. Own up front if you think you might not say something perfectly. And be graceful to one another when we have trouble expressing something or make a mistake.

9. Any conversation that involves conflict is best had in person and is worst had using the internet. The only email that should be sent when you’re in conflict with someone is “When can we get together and talk?”

10. Pray for one another. That’s not just a throwaway line. Lifting one another to God in prayer is how we learn, slowly and sometimes painfully, but ultimately joyfully, to see each other and treat each other as God’s beloved.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Homelessness in St. Louis: Perspectives and Solutions

Homelessness is not simple. It’s incredibly complex and systemic. Every person who ends up on the streets has an individual story for how they got there and needs individual help to get off the streets. Yet -- much of it by necessity of sheer volume -- many of our attempts to end homelessness tend toward mass, "one size fits all" efforts that end up falling way short.

There are lots of consequences … both intended and unintended not only to homelessness but to our efforts to help eliminate it. Again -- it's not simple. It's complex and systemic.

We tend to put people into artificial categories of those who care about the homeless and those who don’t, with those who don’t usually being tagged as uncaring business owners and residents. Problem is, that isn’t my experience of the people who live and work downtown. There are some who are like that … some who just want to push homeless people somewhere else where they will be out of sight, but most people I know who live and work downtown really want to help people who are homeless. But, they also have legitimate concerns about public health and safety, and also about what services will really help move people out of homelessness and what services are just creating a culture of dependency.

As I said. It’s not simple. It’s complex and systemic and there are many different perspectives.

So that's why we're teaming up with winter outreach tomorrow evening (Tuesday, Sept. 17) at 7 pm in the Cathedral Nave for a Downtown Hall Meeting which we’re calling "Homelessness in St. Louis: Perspectives and Solutions," because we want a chance for people from a broad variety of perspectives to share their vantage point on homelessness … what they see the issues are, what their concerns are, and where we might look together for solutions. A diverse group of panelists (see the list below) will each speak for no more than 3 minutes apiece and then most of the evening will be spent in diverse small groups where we will search for solutions that cut across the traditional battle lines.

We have intentionally planned this a week before the public hearing over NLEC because we want to have people go into that hearing with a strong experience that we are partners in this work of ending homelessness, not enemies. And hopefully with some sense of common ground that will have us fighting one another less and working together more.

Our hosting this meeting is a part of what I believe Cathedrals should be ... which is a gathering place where everyone is invited into the room and we ask the questions we think Jesus would ask. That's what's going to happen tomorrow evening.

I hope you will be at Christ Church Cathedral tomorrow night and listen deeply and speak plainly. And be a part of trying something new to end homelessness in our city.

Tomorrow night's panelists will include:
-Kenny Brunnel and other members of downtown’s homeless community
-Residents and those who work in downtown St. Louis
-Amanda Andrus, owner of Gelateria Tavolini
-Megan Heeney, outreach worker and Places for People service provider
-Brad Waldrop, downtown developer
-Sarah “Jonesey” Johnson, staff member of Left Bank Books
-Lewis Reed, President of the Board of Aldermen
-Chris Rice, Pastor of New Life Evangelistic Center

I will co-moderate the event with Jean Allman, professor at Washington University.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Thoughts on leaders, leadership and God's work of gathering in St. Louis

This past weekend, I began Leadership St. Louis, a nine-month journey with a diverse and talented - and wonderfully joyful - group of 65 leaders in the St. Louis region (click here for the class roster). Over the next nine months, we will look in-depth at economic development, education, racism, power & politics, poverty & social sciences, the criminal justice system, arts & culture and the environment. We'll look at trends, problems and solutions -- and most of all imagine how we can work together to lead the region to a better future.

I posted a brief Facebook status about our opening retreat and how excited I was about the quality of leaders in our region, and it elicited a cynical comment from a friend of "When do they start leading?" This sentiment is not unique. We are cynical about leadership. We are frustrated with the problems in our region. We trust less and less and are more and more aware of the role money has in decision making ... and our own ability to be parochial and build and defend fiefdoms.

And yet, I am still full of hope. Over the past 4 1/2 years at Christ Church Cathedral and becoming immersed in the downtown community, I'm learning some things. I say "learning" instead of "have learned" because I still have a long way to go. I know in the next nine months, I will learn a lot more. And I'll keep writing ... and I'd love your comments and thoughts and to continue the conversation over coffee or a beer.

Here are some thoughts:

*The big issues facing the region - race and class divides, the opportunity gap in education and health care, employment and housing, city/county divides and more -- these have been around for decades or more and will not be solved overnight. There will not be one galvanizing leader who will take us to the promised land - certainly not in all of them and probably not even in any one of them. Progress will be -- and has been -- piecemeal.

*Because one of our major problems is parochialism and fiefdoms, some of the most effective leaders will be the ones who can work behind the scenes and out of the camera eye to bring people together. I think churches are poised to do a lot of this work ... to be the sacred common ground where people can gather to look for what the common good is. It is the networkers of the coming generations -- for whom the divisions are increasingly less important -- who will make the most progress on this.

*The big shifts often happen as a culmination of a lot of small efforts. 15 years ago, Magdalene in Nashville started as a house for 5 women (and Magdalene St. Louis will start the same way), but today it is helping lead a national conversation on human trafficking and helping cities across the country look at laws which punish prostitutes but not johns and look at a culture where it's OK to buy and sell women. Jesus did feed the 5,000 ... but a lot more often he spent his time working with small groups or individuals. There's something to be learned there. It doesn't have to be a March on Washington. The work Geoffrey Canada did with the Harlem Children's Zone shows what can happen when we just focus on even one neighborhood. In our region, Rod Jones, CEO at Grace Hill Settlement House, is taking that organization in the same direction in exciting ways (I'm thrilled to be a part of his board and of the Episcopal connection to that work!)

*In St. Louis, a big issue for many problems is how can we stop saying "not my problem" and work regionally for solutions. An example of this is homelessness. The vast majority of homeless services are in the urban core. This attracts the vast majority of homeless people, creating a system that is overloaded with volume so that it's pretty impossible to do anything but provide emergency services. Efforts throughout the wider region to provide homeless services throughout the region are incredibly important -- not just because they hold the potential of spreading out the volume so we can actually have manageable populations and help people move out of homelessness but it builds bridges between city and county that can be used on other problems. (Room at the Inn is a fantastic organization trying to do this in the region).

*I'm learning to look for leaders in different places. I'm learning not to look for them so much in elected office -- though I have met true and bold leaders in elected office. I'm learning to look for them in the business and nonprofit worlds. I'm learning to look for them in the crowd and not just on the podium. I'm learning to look for them in people who exercise more informal authority than formal authority. People who can mobilize resources in their community to do good. Even just downtown, I could start listing them and go on for paragraphs and still leave people out. Look around you. Who are the people in your neighborhood, in your municipality, who get things done ... who connect people and resources for the common good?

It's easy to slip into cynicism. Part of why I can get so reactive against cynicism is that I am so capable of it myself -- and I know that if I go down that road it is like being sucked into a black hole.  The demonic power of cynicism is it convinces good people that the cause is lost. And I absolutely believe that cause is not lost.

In 1 Samuel 17, the people of Israel are faced with a giant who seems undefeatable. They are just "men of Saul" ... and even though Saul is a great leader, they don't believe any among them are equal to the task of felling Goliath.

But then a small, young boy -- probably the last person you would expect -- steps forward. And David speaks a timeless truth -- we are never just people of one leader, we are always people of God.

If we put our trust in any human, any leader -- no matter how talented she or he is -- we are limited in our power and are able to be disappointed. There is no one leader who measures up to the giant challenges before us. But David reminds us that God, "the God who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this uncircumcised Philistine!"

And we know how that story ended.

What is bigger than the challenges in front of us is our God. And we know from Jesus that what God does is bind us together for the common good. There is no need for cynicism or fear. We have a long road to travel, but God is gathering.

What role will you play?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Our mission ... if we choose to accept it.

At last month's Chapter meeting, we adopted a mission statement based on the core values that came out of the home meetings last year (Spirituality & Faith, Diversity, Communication, Growth and Service). The purpose of a mission statement is to guide the mission and ministry of the Cathedral and give focus to the broader mission we all share as Christians (The Great Commandment and the Great Commission - Matthew 22 and 28) and as Episcopalians ("to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ" -- BCP, p. 855).

We seek a deeper relationship with God and each other in Jesus Christ through:
*Celebrating the sacraments faithfully
*Proclaiming the Gospel boldly
*Embracing diversity joyfully
*Serving all passionately
as a Cathedral.

The heart of the statement is the first clause -- "We seek a deeper relationship with God and each other in Jesus Christ." In all things, Jesus Christ drawing us deeper in relationship with God and each other is at the center. Everything else is how we go about doing that.

This mission statement has come from listening to the word of God in scripture, the tradition of the church and the voices of the people (a pretty Anglican process). But a mission statement is only just words unless it is lived. And the first step in living it is holding it in prayer and asking God to guide us through it. So that's what we're going to do.

*We will not be having a regular Chapter meeting in July. Instead, I'm asking the entire Chapter and congregation to spend the hour between 6-7 pm Central time on Thursday, July 18 in prayer with the mission statement. Pray in whatever way you experience prayer ... the point is listen for how God is calling us through this mission to grow in deeper relationship with God and each other in Jesus Christ.

2) The main agenda item for August's Chapter meeting will be asking "what did we hear?" If you're not on Chapter, you're welcome to come to this meeting or to share with Chapter members the fruits of your prayer time.

3) Since our mission is growing in deeper relationship with God and each other in Jesus Christ, we need to keep Christ continually before us. So, beginning in August, we will be moving Chapter meetings from the Guernsey Room to the upper platform of the Cathedral sanctuary -- right in front of the reredos. We will set up tables there, continue to share a meal as we have had in the past, but our business will be conducted literally at the foot of the cross. I don't know how this will change our meetings, but I am convinced it will change them.

For now, our mission ... if we choose to accept it ... is to pray. To listen for God's still, small voice. To let ourselves be shaped by the Spirit so we can set our course into the future.

I can't wait to hear what your experience of prayer has been ... and know that I am praying with and for you.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Start with prayer

It's my habit to start every meeting with prayer. It might seem like a small thing, but it's not. Prayer connects us with intent to a God who is always present to us but to whom we are not always present. Prayer reminds us that everything we do or discuss happens within the context of God's love for the world. Prayer opens us up to a wisdom that is beyond our own cognitive powers even at their best.

For the same reason, I begin each day not just with prayer but with reading the Bible (it's when I do my Bible challenge reading). Again, it's about intentionality and perspective and wisdom. It's about being open to transformation -- and I find that happens not when I try to figure everything out myself but when I'm open to the deep wisdom of God in prayer and scripture.

As the weather has gotten warmer, things are starting to heat up downtown. Change is happening, and with change comes conflict. Some of the conflicts are age-old ... particularly the ones surrounding how we live together as a community that includes the urban poor and homeless -- and some are new. But just about all of them defy easy answers. Just about all of them involve differing -- and sometimes contradictory versions of reality. Many of them seemingly require the wisdom of Solomon to sort out!

Frankly, many of the issues we are leave me at a loss. And so I am doing the only thing I know how to do. I am praying and I am reading scripture. But I am not doing it alone.

Starting last week, I've invited a group of downtown pastors to meet together for just a half-hour a week (5-5:30 pm at Gelateria Tavolini on 14th and Washington). Our only agenda for that half-hour is to read the Bible and to pray for one another and for the city. That's it. No problem-solving. No negotiating. No bitching and moaning. Just exploring scripture and prayer.

It's started small. Last week it was me, Jon and Amanda Andrus (who own GT and are involved in pastoring the Pursuit Christian Community) and a Southern Baptist church planter who happened to walk in while we were meeting. Schedules being what they are, I'm sure we'll have people who are more regular than others ... but everyone I have invited has said they hope they can come.

I don't know what the solutions are to the challenges we face downtown -- challenges of economic development, poverty, homelessness, health, safety and others. But I do know that if those of us who are committed to making this a city that makes glad God's heart start with prayer and build that as our foundation ... then we have a better chance of wisdom deeper than our own being revealed to us.

What do you think?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

New Life Evangelistic Center and Downtown ... Breaking the Cycle

Last month, a group of residents near New Life Evangelistic Center submitted a petition to the Board of Public Service alleging that NLEC is operating in a way that is a "detriment to the neighborhood," citing a series of behaviors exhibited by people frequenting the facility and asking for a hearing about these complaints. Click here for a fact sheet about the petition. NLEC has responded with a fundraising letter saying it is "threatened by the upper class who want to blame those in need for problems created by bars on Washington Avenue" and Winter Outreach has responded with a counter-petition. I believe a destructive cycle is being repeated here, and I want to take a moment to explain my thoughts and the position I am taking. 

As always, I welcome thoughtful and prayerful dialogue.

I am committed to working for a city that makes glad God’s heart. I believe God’s heart is glad when:

*We respect the dignity of every human being and all creation

*We work together for the common good – not just surviving but thriving.

*We seek and serve Christ in one another, always assuming the best in one another, never demonizing one another and calling each other to be the best we can be.

History has shown us prone to not doing these things – particularly the last two. History has also shown that we tend to be reactive and are prone to looking at things situationally and not systemically. I believe both of those are playing out today.

I believe all the players in this cycle are people of good will. The cycle is the problem. And the cycle is familiar:

*Downtown attracts large numbers of homeless women, men and children.

*Because of the high volume we are relegated to concentrating on emergency aid ... emergency shelters and feeding programs … necessary but not helping people in the long term. As we add more of these services, more homeless people are attracted, which puts more strain on the system and reduces our ability to transition people out of homelessness.

*Cutbacks in health care and housing, proliferation of inexpensive drugs and alcohol, lack of jobs, race and class prejudice and sheer numbers contribute to destructive behaviors among the homeless population.

*Non-homeless residents and business owners raise the issues of the behaviors.

This is the tipping point. This is where we are right now with the petition that has been filed by the residents about NLEC.

In the past, here is what has happened:

*NLEC and others portray city government and those who raised the issues as the self-concerned rich and even deny the behaviors are a result of the volume of homeless people in the neighborhood.

*The media, who know that conflict sells, divert attention not only from the behaviors but also from the issue of the inadequacy of the current measures to move people out of homelessness.

*The prevailing narrative becomes the evil city and residents vs. the good NLEC and homeless advocates. Large amounts of resources are spent. Eventually, those who raised the issues of the behaviors get tired of fighting and stop – often leaving downtown.

Nothing changes. Inflows of homeless people continue, destructive behaviors escalate and a new group of people raise the issue at which time we’re off to the races again.

I have been downtown at Christ Church Cathedral for a little more than four years – that’s a small amount of time compared with many – but I have spent that time listening, watching and learning. Here is what I am discovering:

*Downtown West shoulders an unsustainable proportion of the homeless population. We cannot shift our efforts to long-term solutions unless the opportunity to help is shared more evenly throughout the region.

*Pretty much all of us are compassionate. I haven't met a lot of (or, really, any) Snidely Whiplashes. The people who have moved downtown – the same people who signed the petition – do not hate homeless people. Many moved downtown for the diversity of downtown. By and large, they want to end homelessness, not push homeless people off.

*The residents do want to not see drugs dealt outside their window, to not have urine and feces on their buildings. to be able to walk down the street in safety  – I share those desires and hope we all do.

*The behaviors are the canary in the coal mine. They are the sign that something is very wrong. And not just that we need more services of the same kind which will only attract more people and maintain the status quo. If we are to make any real progress, we cannot continue to spend our energy fighting over whether the canary is dead while we all slowly suffocate.

I have been watching and listening to the latest round of this cycle unfold, and I propose an attempt to break the cycle and work together to choose a different path. Specifically,

1) Instead of demonizing the residents, assume the best of them, acknowledge they have valid points, and claim common cause to eliminate the behaviors.

2) Instead of demonizing NLEC, encourage all to assume the best of them, believing that they would like nothing more than to end homelessness.

3) Like the Winter Outreach petition urges, I support bringing everyone – NLEC, city officials, residents, business owners, homeless service providers, homeless persons, advocates and anyone else who wants to – together in a conversation about the real issues. However I strongly disagree that the "real issue" is more services of the type we already have concentrated in this already overloaded area. The first issue we need to address is reducing volume and inflow, which will allow us to refocus our efforts from emergency aid to transitioning people out of homelessness.

4) If any of our facilities is operating in ways that are unsafe, insist that they abide by existing building and safety laws, and help them to do so … both by working with them to make any necessary changes in a reasonable timeframe and by working to spread out the availability of services to reduce the volume of people in the facility. If there is doubt about any facility being a danger to public health and safety, that facility (including Christ Church Cathedral) should willingly invite inspection.

5) Commit together to give primary support to programs and ministries that transition people sustainably out of homelessness and poverty (e.g. HomeFirst STL, St. Patrick CenterBridge Bread, and Magdalene St. Louis.)

Above all, let us commit to breaking the cycle of demonization and destructive conflict. We can make this a city that makes glad God’s heart. But we can only do it if we break this cycle, work together and call each other to be the best we can be.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Testifying for Marriage Equality at City Hall

This afternoon, I will join with government officials, civil rights activists, religious leaders and couples at City Hall for a press conference supporting marriage equality in advance of this week's Supreme Court cases on California's Proposition 8 and the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act." Below are the remarks I plan to make.

My deep desire is for Christ Church Cathedral to be a place where all are welcome, where we are a catalyst for conversation, where people from across political and theological spectrums come together and seek a wisdom that is greater than our own. Where we ask the questions we believe Jesus would ask and listen for God's still small voice in our hearts and on the lips of one another.

I believe our being an Oasis Congregation of intentional welcome to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons is a piece of being that place. But I also believe and will defend just as strongly the same welcome to people who believe that same-sex relationships are counter to God's will. Everyone is welcome at the table. Everyone is invited to the conversation. However, nobody gets to treat anyone with anything but the highest of respect, and nobody gets to tell anyone else they can't be there.

Because I so deeply want the Cathedral to be this safe place where all feel welcome to express their honest opinions and to be open to the Spirit's whisperings, I have struggled with when and if I should speak out ... with occasions such as this. Where I am with this is that my silence would not model what I hope for from our Cathedral -- which is being a place and community where all can come and speak plainly and listen deeply.

So in a few minutes, I will go to City Hall and speak plainly (I hope). But I also want to listen deeply. If you disagree with what I am saying, don't just leave a comment here (though you are welcome to), come to Christ Church Cathedral and engage me and us in the congregation (and meet many couples among us whose living witness just might be converting for you). Invite me to come meet you where you are and engage me in the conversation. I promise I will listen deeply. I promise I will treat you with the highest respect. Because I am bound to seek and serve Christ in you, as you are bound to in me.

Here are the remarks I will be making this afternoon:
As an American, I believe we are a people of rights and laws, and those rights and laws should be extended to all people. Those rights might have been based on the variety of religious beliefs of the founders of this nation, but they have been set in a rule of law that above all values liberty and justice for all. No one person’s view, be it based in their faith or otherwise, should supercede this fundamental precept of liberty and justice for all.

There are rights that go with the legal contract of marriage, and the decision that is in front of the courts is very simple. It is whether it is OK to withhold the rights and privileges of entering into a legal contract from consenting adults who have done nothing, nothing to warrant that prohibition. As an American, I believe the decision in front of the courts is simple. It is will we have liberty and justice for all.

Now I am not only an American, I am a person of faith. For me, marriage is not just a legal contract, it is a sacred covenant that has been a part of our faith tradition for thousands of years. And like many of our understandings of God’s purposes, our understanding of marriage has evolved and is still evolving. And we have had the freedom to define the sacrament of marriage for ourselves. We have had the freedom to say whether we believe God blesses a marriage between two people of the same sex or not.

I believe that God blesses two people, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, who enter into a covenant of lifelong, self-giving love with one another. I believe that whatever we call that, that God calls it marriage. But what I believe isn’t the issue. Sacraments and sacred covenants should be defined by communities of faith. The government shouldn’t be defining a sacrament and it certainly shouldn’t be ill-defining it.

It is the government’s job to ensure that the rights guaranteed to us in our rule of law are available to all. It is the government’s job to ensure liberty and justice for all.

It is not the government’s job to tell us who can be bound together in the sacrament of marriage. It is not the government’s job to tell us what God blesses and what God doesn’t bless. We’ve got that one covered.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Cathedral and the Charter School -- an update

Today, I received what I hope is the final draft of the contract between Christ Church Cathedral and Lafayette Preparatory Academy.  This is the latest step in what has been nine months of discernment and conversations about this startup charter elementary school incubating in the Bishop Tuttle Memorial Building from 2013-2015.

For more on the rationale for this relationship, see my post 

The timetable for approval of the contact is below. This Sunday, LPA Head of School Susan Marino and LPA Steering Committee member Paul Brown will join us after the 10 am service for an On The Table Forum in the Nave for a community conversation about this new relationship. Carolyn Herman is heading up a group of Cathedral parishioners interested in helping out with LPA ... particularly working with children who might need extra help academically.

In the first year, LPA hopes to have two kindergarten and two first-grade classes, adding two second-grade classes in 2014-15. We have negotiated a common area maintenance agreement that will result in LPA picking up a percentage of what it costs us to run the BTM on a percentage of square feet used basis. Because their state funding will not kick in until year two, we have agreed that in the first year they will cover any and all increases in cost associated with their presence at Christ Church Cathedral (we will not be out of pocket one penny), and in the second year, they will pay 200% of the CAM figure.

The space LPA uses will be essentially what was discussed in the original conversations. The second floor Christian Education space will be the primary classroom space, with the four classrooms on the East wall being converted to two larger classrooms and the Christian Education "office" being changed into a second bathroom. Schuyler Hall will be used as whole-school meeting space and a lunchroom, with the Guernsey room being auxiliary gathering space. The fifth floor offices will be used as school administrative offices and the former bookstore space on the ground floor will be the school front office. The gym will also be used for physical education.

LPA will pay for any renovations and all are subject to our approval.

Security will be of paramount concern with young children in the building. We have said from the beginning that the nave of the Cathedral has to remain open to all people at all times. However, access to the BTM during school hours will be restricted to those having legitimate business with the Cathedral, the offices of the Bishop, Episcopal City Mission and the school. During school hours, the second and fourth floors will be key-access only from the elevators and the central stairwell will be fitted with an entry alarm (at LPA expense) that can be turned off by the guard and disabled on Sundays and others times we are using the building.

The recovery groups currently meeting in the BTM will be shifted back to the Davis Room and will not be allowed to go up the stairs that lead up to the BTM proper. Cathedral meetings can still take place as normal and Miss Carol's Breakfast will not be affected.

There will be changes and challenges ... these always come with shared space. Amy and I have been and will continue to be in conversation with any groups effected --- particularly those involved in children and youth ministries, which use the primary classroom space. The school has agreed to buy locking cabinets to store all the Sunday School materials so they are protected. Some things -- such as when the renovations to the second floor will begin -- have yet to be negotiated. Other things will be dealt with as they emerge.

I am excited about this new chapter in our life together. I particularly want to thank all those who have been incredibly patiently and diligently working on this project this past year -- Tom Rogers, Tom Edelman, Bob Schleipman, Walt Johnson, Annette Carr, Carolyn Herman, Amy Cortright, Rick Edwards and many others.

I hope you'll come out on Sunday and be part of the conversation ... especially to dream about how we can not just be landlords for LPA, but active partners helping it be a part of the solution to the educational problems we have in St. Louis.

Here is our hoped-for schedule for the approval of the contract. Please note that these dates are assuming things go through as hoped. Any contract of this nature must not only be approved by the Cathedral Chapter but also by the Diocesan Chancellor and the Standing Committee.

Tuesday, March 5 - Draft contract and specs sent to executive committee, chancellor, canon to the ordinary, cathedral administrator and vicar for review.

Thursday, March 7 -- Executive Committee of Chapter discusses contract

Sunday, March 10 - LPA head of school Susan Marino and board president Paul Brown meet with Cathedral congregation in open forum

Thursday, March 21 - Cathedral Chapter meets, LPA representatives present, contract is presented for chapter approval

Thursday, March 28 - Contract is presented to Standing Committee for approval

Monday, April 1 - Contract is signed.

Monday, February 18, 2013

"I am about to do a new thing..." A Lent on the Mountaintop at Christ Church Cathedral

We are ready for a vision of the Promised Land that will show us where God is leading us and what we are on our way to becoming.

We’re ready to hear the words God spoke to the prophet Isaiah, words we will be building toward through these 40 days of Lent. Words we will hear on that last Sunday before we join Jesus on his journey into Jerusalem:

I am about to do a new thing.

Yesterday, I preached about us doing something different this Lent. Instead of a Lent of anguish and guilt, we are getting "out of the desert and up on the mountaintop" where we can glimpse the Promised Land God has in store for us.

Christ Church Cathedral lives God's mission of "restoring to unity all people with God and each other in Christ" through embracing our five core values -- Spirituality & Faith, Diversity, Communication, Growth and Service. It is through these that God is doing a new thing through us -- right here, right now.

And so we say with Isaiah: "Now it springs forth."

And so we ask with Isaiah: "Do you not perceive it?"

For the next six weeks, we will be searching and dreaming together for what that new thing might  be. We'll be doing it together as a Cathedral community and individually in our lives. We'll be asking the questions:

What is the new thing God is trying to do in our life?
What is the new thing God is trying to do in my life?

What will that look like?

For starters, throughout Lent, our preaching at 10 am on Sunday will be on this theme "I am about to do a new thing." Our preachers -- the Rev. Canon Amy Cortright, the Rev. Kathleen Wilder and me -- will guide us through the Old Testament readings for the season and look at different aspects of what God's "new thing" might look like.

*We'll have a series of wonderful guests who will help us reflect on God's new thing in their life and ours:

Sunday, Feb. 24, 11:30 am - Grammy Award winning musician/composer Terence Blanchard is our Black History Month potluck speaker and will talk about his creating new works out of the stories of our past.

Sunday, March 3, 9 am – former Alderwoman Kacie Starr Triplett will join us to talk about how God moved in her life through Anna Brown’s death to lead her to give up her seat and dedicate herself to improving health care for the homeless.

Sunday, March 10, 9 & 10 am – The Rev. Kathleen Wilder of Centenary UMC and The Bridge will lead our forum about her journey to give up a life in corporate America and dedicate her life to ministry and ending homelessness. She will also preach at 10.

Sunday, March 10, 11:30 am – Susan Marino, Head of School for Lafayette Preparatory Academy, will talk about our new partnership with LPA in a Cathedral community forum.

Sunday, March 17, 11:30 am – Representatives from Bridge Bread and HomeFirstSTL will be at coffee hour and available for conversation about these possibilities for deepening our partnership with The Bridge’s efforts to end homelessness.

*We have 10 youth who are going through confirmation class and deciding whether to commit to being a part of God's new thing in their lives by taking an adult profession of the Christian faith.

*On Good Friday evening, we are doing a new thing by hosting the inaugural "Good Friday Blues" -- a partnership with the National Blues Museum and Magdalene St. Louis ... amazing blues music at the foot of the cross that will draw new people into Christ Church Cathedral and hear the "deep love meets deep pain" message of Good Friday in a new way.

We also want to hear your stories. What "new thing" do you find God luring you into? What "new thing" do you see God doing in your midst?  Leave it in a comment here or on our Facebook event page for Lent at CCC -

What is the new thing God is doing through us? Through you?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

First things first: Today's Bible Challenge readings

I don't know about you, but I've been having to try really hard to resist the temptation to skim over the Exodus readings recently as we do The Bible Challenge together. This morning, as I was reading the chapters about the building of the lampstand and the making of the vestments, something hit me.

This is insane.

These people are in the desert. They need food and water. They need protection from wild animals. And, the last thing they need is to be tied down with a bunch of carefully crafted non-portable things like the tabernacle and the court if someone should attack. Is this how they should be spending their time and resources?

From a "practical" standpoint, what the people of Israel are doing in the desert is absolutely crazy. But what they are really doing is putting first things first.

No matter what our situation, the first thing we always do is praise God. We do that trusting that if we take care of that, God will take care of the rest.

Praising God takes many forms. It is, as we say in the liturgy "with our lips and in our lives." We praise God with words and songs of praise, with glorious art and music. We also praise God as Jesus did ... healing the sick and spending time with the most broken and vulnerable.

We praise God first and don't worry about the more "practical" considerations. We trust that God will provide.

But there is one other thing. Part of praising God -- a huge part -- is giving deeply to that work. Moses had what might be the first capital campaign to raise the materials to build all this stuff ... and the people gave so generously that he had to say: "OK, stop! We have enough."

There's a church in Washington, D.C. that you've heard me mention ... Church of the Savior. More than any church I've ever encountered, it takes seriously Jesus' "Enter by the narrow gate" command. I was there this past October listening to one of their leaders talk about how they do stewardship. It's pretty simple.

Everyone tithes. Period. End of story.

Well what if someone has expenses that crop up --- a car wreck, medical bills, can't pay their rent? That's OK. The community will pay those expenses if necessary ... because that's how they love each other ... but they still pay the tithe.

First things first.

What if Christ Church Cathedral were like that?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Famous last words. Today's Bible Challenge reading -- The Great Commission

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ - Matthew 28:16-20

Those of us who are doing The Bible Challenge (reading the whole Bible in a year), finished the Gospel of Matthew today. There's kind of a breathless nature to this reading ... we finish Matthew today and dive right into Mark tomorrow ... but today's finale deserves at least a little pause to reflect. As I've sat with it this morning, three thoughts jumped out at me.

The disciples went to Galilee -- Even though Jesus sends them to "make disciples of all nations," where he told them to meet him first was in Galilee. Why is that important? Because Galilee was their home. We meet Jesus where we are. Our commission to follow Jesus starts at home, right where we are. Not coincidentally, that's often the toughest place to do it ... the place where the relationships matter the most to us and where we have the most to lose. It's easier to go from strange town to strange town and kick the dust off your feet if they start throwing cabbage at you ... but sitting at the family dinner table? That's hard work. And yet Jesus, like Paul McCartney sings, "Get back to where you once belonged."

Some doubted - If this isn't one of the coolest little asides in all of scripture, I don't know what is. The resurrected Jesus is standing right in front of them on a mountain ... and still some doubted. Perfect faith is not about never doubting. Doubting is to be expected. It's a sign of a real, engaged and true faith. Doubting is why we always follow Jesus in community. So that when we doubt, we have the faith of the community to carry us. The ability to own our doubts and still listen for Jesus and walk together with Jesus is the hallmark of Christian community. Some doubted? Damn straight!

Always - There is one promise of Christ ... and that is the promise of presence. We are not promised prosperity or health or respect or anything like it. We are not promised that our lives will not completely fall apart or that we won't be hit by a bus or that our best friends and spouses won't betray us. But we are promised that through it all, God will be with us. And if we are to follow Jesus together, that is what we promise to embody for each other. When the worst life has to offer happens to us, we can't promise to have the magic words to say to make it all better (those don't exist), we can't promise to fix each other, we can't promise even to make sense of it all. But we can look at one another as sisters and brothers in Christ and say "I am with you always, to the end." That is the greatest witness we can have of the Gospel of Christ to the nations of the earth ... we will love you and walk with you to the end. Do we really need anything else?

What do you think when you read the Great Commission? What jumps out at you?

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Follow the M...

This past Saturday, our treasurer Betsy Kirchoff, junior warden Tom Edelmann and I gathered at my house with a wonderful group of development professionals from around St. Louis -- Laura Kozak and Carol Walker (Grace Hill), Jeanette Huey (Washington University), John Rick (St. Louis University High School) and Nancy Kinney (UMSL).

We sat around our dining room table and I asked them what they thought we needed to be doing to build the long-term financial sustainability of Christ Church Cathedral -- both as a congregation and as a St. Louis institution.

There were some good technical ideas thrown around ... ones we need to be working on. We need to continue the great work of our three stewardship teams. We need to provide opportunities for and encourage planned giving (that Pope bequest didn't just happen!). But more than anything, everyone kept coming back to one theme:

Don't focus on the money. Focus on the mission. Focus on the ministry.

It resonated completely with our last Chapter meeting. I asked the same questions about money, but the answers they gave were about mission and ministry -- proving once again that this Cathedral community has an innate sense of the Gospel in our DNA!

Focus on the mission. Focus on the ministry.

That's what we're going to do.

Over the past year, a clear picture has come into focus about God's dream for Christ Church Cathedral. We start with the mission of the Church that is expressed in our prayer book:

The mission of the church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.

As a Cathedral congregation, we have heard God calling us to live that mission of reconciliation through a deepened spirituality and faith, diversity, communication, growth and service.

As the Cathedral of the diocese, we have heard our importance as a presence in the city, as a resource for the congregations of the diocese and as a central gathering place.

As the Cathedral of the city, we have heard our importance as a catalyst for community and convener of conversations, a place where the city – particularly downtown – comes together in all our diversity and across all our divides ... as well as being a uniquely beautiful space for performances, exhibitions and community gatherings.

At our annual meeting, we came together and talked about why this mission is important to us and began to dream of how we might better live into it. This Saturday, your Chapter will gather for our annual workday and we will dive further into this.

We'll be exploring Acts 8, which is about the persecuted church not curling up and dying but adapting and thriving in new ways by being open to the movements of the Holy Spirit.

We'll be gathering into three groups -- one focusing on the congregation, one on the diocese and one on the city/downtown. Each will look at where the Spirit is moving in those areas currently, how we can get behind it, and what specific action steps we can commit to. We will then decide on next steps, set priorities, assign tasks and set timelines.

This is what following the mission looks like. But it's not just about me ... or me and Amy ... or me and Amy and Chapter. It's about all of us.

If we are to thrive. If we are to become the Cathedral God dreams us to be, we ALL need to follow the mission together. We need to do what we do in the Eucharist ... lay our whole lives on the table with Christ and one another. As we do that ... as we give ourselves fully to the mission of Christ in this Cathedral ... amazing, surprising and glorious things will begin to happen.

As we focus on the mission, as we focus on the ministry, as we give our whole selves to it, to Christ and to one another ... there is no limit to what God will do.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The mayoral forum, a poverty of trust, and becoming a new creation.

Last night, I sat across the street in a packed auditorium at Central Library as three candidates for mayor of St. Louis lay out their cases to the voters. Far more revealing about our common life was watching and listening not to the candidates ... but to the audience.

From the first opening statement to the last closing remark, the crowd reactions reflected the deep race and class divides in our city and the passions behind them. That of all the poverties we face in St. Louis -- and there are many -- the deepest is a poverty of trust in one another.

Probably the most iconic instance of this last night was when Jimmie Matthews-- who played the court jester role last night, providing comic relief while at the same time revealing deep truth about our common life -- was talking about how he was opposed to gun control. His reason? Because if "the mayor and his police force" have guns, then we need guns to protect ourselves.

And African-American heads around the room nodded in assent.

It is a poverty of trust when a large part of a community looks at people sworn "to protect and to serve" as an enemy to be defended against.

When there is a poverty of trust, it usually is with reason, and those reasons often have deep roots. And that certainly is the case here. It almost doesn't matter whether today's police are trustworthy or not ... the perception is the reality. And it's not just limited to the police. It's about economic development and education and much, much more. When the motive behind every action is assumed to be nefarious, all the flowery langauge about having to "become one city" (and we heard a lot of that last night) means absolutely nothing.

I left last night with four thoughts about healing this poverty of trust:

1) It takes both sides listening deeply. Trust is rebuilt when both (or all) sides commit to setting aside their gut reactions and prejudices and listening deeply to the experience of the other. This is incredibly hard work, and there are no short cuts. It has taken us generations to get us to where we are in this city and nation, and we are not going to snap our fingers and turn into all the Whos down in Whoville joining hands on Christmas morning. We have to be willing to listen deeply to one another and truly hear very different and even contrary worldviews to our own. We have to allow for our own deeply held worldviews to be challenged. We have to be willing to lay our lives down and be vulnerable with one another.

2) It takes more than words - Words are important, but trust is rebuilt by word and action. There are serious inequalities in St. Louis ... and many if not most are along racial lines. It is up with those of us who have power and privilege to take the lead not only in word but in action in giving power away in partnering across race and class lines for the elimination of inequities of economic opportunity, education and public safety.

3) Mayors are not magicians. One thing I can tell you about this election, and that is if we think whom we vote for is going to radically change things, we are sadly mistaken. From what I know about Mayor Slay and President Reed, they are both fine men who care deeply about our city -- I'm not just saying that to be politic, I am genuinely impressed by both of them. But when you are trying to change a system, swapping out the leader is actually one of the least effective ways to do it. Unfortunately, the race question that was asked last night was the wrong question. The candidates were asked "What will YOU do to heal the racial divides in our city?" The better question would have been "What can WE as citizens do to heal those racial divides?" Our best leaders don't have magic policies that change everything. Our best leaders call us to look at ourselves and to realize we have the power to come together for the common good. Which leads us to...

4) It's up to us - If trust is to be rebuilt in St. Louis, it is up to us. But that's good news for us as Christians and particularly for us as a Cathedral, because we are uniquely equipped for the task. In  2 Corinthians 5, Paul writes:

"From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even tough we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So 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."

Right now, we have a poverty of trust. It is one that is well-earned over generations. We are not to be faulted for not trusting ... when you have been given reason over and over again not to trust, it is only human. But we are called beyond that. We are called not to look at each other from that human point of view, but to see one another as and to become a new creation in Christ ... because in Christ we have been given the ministry of reconciliation.

What it means to be given the ministry of reconciliation in Christ is that we do what Christ did ... lay our lives down for love of the world, even for love of those who would oppose and persecute us, even love of those whom we bear the weight of us having persecuted. Being "reconcilers in Christ" means we listen deeply to one another, we allow ourselves to be convicted by one another, we confess our sins and accept God's forgiveness and each others'. We do the hard work with no short cuts of learning to live together ... not expecting uniformity or even unity, but striving for mutual love and respect and trust. 

As a Cathedral community, we have named "diversity" as one of our core values, and we were right to do so ... but I'm not sure there is a more challenging value we could have named. Because diversity in Christ is not just tolerant coexistence, it is deep vulnerability. Diversity in Christ does not happen overnight but takes years ... and takes patience ... and takes trusting first in the deep grace of God.

This past Sunday, the Rev. Starsky Wilson passionately proclaimed to us that "it's about time" for God's reconciling love to happen. This weekend, Debbie Nelson Linck will unveil her amazing photo exhibition and we'll hear Wiley Price talk about his work chronicling the last 30 years of this divided city. We'll continue our work of sharing our stories and listening deeply to one another. We'll continue, in our incredibly imperfect ways, of trying to see one another from a different point of view. 

We'll continue, in our own way, to heal the poverty of trust in our own lives ... and be equipped for God to send us out into our city to do the same.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Just one question about guns: "What Honors God?"

At that time Jesus went through the cornfields on the sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, ‘Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath.’ He said to them, ‘Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests. Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests in the temple break the sabbath and yet are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice”, you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.’– Matthew 12:1-8

This afternoon, a student walked into the Stevens Institute of Business and Arts on Washington Avenue, shot the financial aid director in the chest with a handgun and then went to a stairwell and shot himself.

This happened three blocks from Christ Church Cathedral, where last month in the wake of the Newtown shootings, we gathered to pray for an end to gun violence in our own city and across the nation.

In the intervening time, we have heard rhetoric on all sides of the gun debate, most of which are competing arguments about efficacy and individual rights.

Will gun control make a difference?
Does owning a gun make one safer or less safe?
What about my right to own a gun?

These are all good and important questions. Questions an informed public should wrestle with. Questions leaders sworn to uphold the Constitution and those knowledgeable about crime and social science should respectfully debate.

But as Christians, these are not the most important questions for us. As Christians, we are bound to ask another question … the question Jesus asks:

What honors God?

When the Pharisees castigate Jesus for his disciples plucking grain on the Sabbath, he gives the example of David eating the bread of the Presence in 1 Samuel 21. Why? He knows the real issue isn’t obeying the law for the law’s sake. He knows the most important thing is the reason the law exists in the first place.

He knows the real question is … what honors God?

My friend the Rev. Kathleen Wilder gifted me with a phrase several years ago. She talks about together us building “a city that makes glad God’s heart.” Building that city is the task of the faithful of every stripe. But we build it not by asking the questions that legislators and social scientists ask. We build it by asking the question of Christ.

We build it by asking: “What honors God?”

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called not to look out for our own safety. We are called not to be concerned with our own rights being infringed upon. As followers of Jesus Christ we are called to be concerned with building cities that make glad God’s heart.

We are called to be concerned with what honors God.

And so faced with the questions about guns in our society, as Christians, we are invited to stake our claims based on a different criteria.

Regardless of whether trying to halt the proliferation of weapons on our streets will be effective or not, as a Christian I need to ask: “Will it honor God?”

Regardless of whether owning a gun for the purpose of shooting another human being even in self-defense is a practical way of keeping me and my family safer, as a Christian, I need to ask “Will it honor God?”

Regardless of whether owning a gun is my right under the Constitution, as a Christian, I need to ask “Will it honor God?”

It's a daunting question. It's one that we need to ask with great humility. But it's one we need to ask realizing that we have some pretty good and clear clues about its answer.

So what do we know from Jesus about what honors God?

What we know from Jesus about what honors God is love for God and one another.

What we know from Jesus about what honors God is receiving blows but not striking them.

What we know from Jesus about what honors God is being willing to risk everything – even our own lives – for the sake of the kind of love Jesus showed in going to the cross.

I am not arguing that the laws of our nation be subject to Holy Scripture. I am saying that if you, like me, call yourself a Christian, then for us as we form our opinions, all other questions must take a back seat to the question of “What honors God?”

I am saying that if you, like me, are trying to follow Jesus, we need to be more concerned with listening for Jesus’ voice than with whatever our preconceived agenda about guns is.

I am saying that if you, like me, are trying to love as Jesus loved and live as Jesus lived, our living witness … even if it is a lonely and despised one … is committing ourselves to living the answer to the question he asks.

What do I think needs to be done about guns in our society? I believe they need to go.

Not because I believe restricting access to weapons will decrease gun violence … though I believe it will.

Not because I believe owning a gun makes us less safe … though I believe it does.

Not because I believe the second amendment right to bear arms is grossly misapplied in ways that were never what the framers intended … though I believe it is.

I believe that we need to get the guns off the streets because from everything I can tell from studying the Bible and trying to follow Jesus, weapons whose sole purpose is to main or destroy human life do not honor God. I believe that the Jesus who commands us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” and “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also,” and who healed the slave’s ear after Peter cut it off with a sword and who went to the cross rather than stop loving even his persecutors does not dream for us to take one another’s lives even to save our own.

I believe that we need to get the guns off the streets because if we are a church whose mission truly is to “restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ,” that doesn’t happen at gunpoint.

I believe that we need to get the guns off the streets because what happened three blocks from us today is not part of a city that makes glad God’s heart. And together, that is what we are tasked and gifted with building.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Our Shared Values - Service

Last year, we spent time speaking clearly & listening deeply to one another about what the values are that bind our Cathedral community together. Who is it we believe God has made us to be? Who is it we believe Christ is loving us into becoming. From this came five core values, five things we believe Jesus dreams for us to love: 
Spirituality & Faith, Diversity, Communication, Growth, Service
This week, I'm looking at one of these each day through the lenses of 
scripture, tradition and reason/experience.


"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me good, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?" And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'" - Matthew 25:31-40

That we are supposed to serve is pretty much a given. Both our Christian scriptures and their Hebrew antecedents are packed with proscriptions to serve, to care for the poor and to work for a more just society.

But this passage in Matthew's Gospel gives us a window into what specifically Christian service means. The service Jesus talks about here is the service where the goal is not any secular agenda, no matter how laudable. The service Jesus talks about is service where we recognize that the vulnerable person we serve is none other than Christ. That means service is much more than just handing out a sandwich ... it is addressing the question "how best can I honor the presence of Christ in each member of humanity?"

As Episcopalians, two promises of our baptismal covenant address this. We promise to "seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves" and also to "strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being." Combined, these two promises commit us to deep personal relationships of honoring Christ in each individual and also working structurally to transform the systems of the world that impoverish and oppress.

Christ Church Cathedral has a long history of service. You probably know about Miss Carol's Breakfast and the women and children's shelter that used to be in the basement. But did you know that the choir room, Letmar Hall, was originally haven for young, unmarried, pregnant women when the BTM first opened in the early 20th century?

More recently, we have looked to build partnerships with downtown organizations like The Bridge and St. Patrick Center. We are looking forward to welcoming Lafayette Preparatory Academy into the BTM this year as they try to improve education for all St. Louis' children. We have gathered St. Louis under our roof to pray for an end to gun violence in our city. The tradition of service is alive and well ... but where do we go from here?

As we prepare for our annual meeting and conversations this Sunday, think about this:

Why is service important to you? To us?

What are the opportunities for us to embody service today and in the future?

See you Sunday!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Our Shared Values - Growth

Last year, we spent time speaking clearly & listening deeply to one another about what the values are that bind our Cathedral community together. Who is it we believe God has made us to be? Who is it we believe Christ is loving us into becoming. From this came five core values, five things we believe Jesus dreams for us to love: 
Spirituality & Faith, Diversity, Communication, Growth, Service

This week, I'm looking at one of these each day through the lenses of scripture, tradition and reason/experience.


"Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ -- Matthew 28:16-20

There are two pillars of Christian practice given to us by Jesus -- the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.

The first is the Great Commandment: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matthew 22:37-39).

The Great Commandment tells us how to live -- giving our lives away in love to God and our neighbor (with the story of the Good Samaritan reminding us that our neighbor is often the person most different from and challenging to us). The Great Commandment is an invitation to the inward journey of prayer, worship and study and to the outward journey of giving and service (more about service tomorrow).

The Great Commission is the passage quoted above ... the final words of the Gospel of Matthew. It's called the Great Commission because Jesus is telling us that this life of love is not just for us but for the world ... and we are commissioned not to keep this Christian life to ourselves but always to be inviting people into it.

In other words, the Church is supposed to grow ... certainly in depth of devotion to Christ, certainly in depth of service, but just as certainly in numbers of the faithful.

Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple (1881-1944) said famously, "The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members." It is a wonderful rephrasing of this Great Commission ... and expresses beautifully what we as Anglicans believe.

As much as we are tempted to think about shaping the Church based on our own desires, the Great Commission and Archbishop Temple's wisdom remind us different. We do not exist for ourselves. Every decision we make should not be based on our own comfort or desire but on answering the questions "how will this love the world outside this church better?" and "how will this bring the world that does not know Jesus closer to Jesus?"

When we claim growth as a value, we are committing ourselves to a life of change ... because every time the community expands, it will change. When we claim growth as a value, we are committing ourselves not to worshipping the liturgy or whatever "the way we've always done things" is, but instead we are committing ourselves to giving away power to the newcomer, and sharing our stories with the stranger.

This kind of change can be scary. After all, what attracts many of us to church is its familiarity. The very word we use to describe our worship space -- sanctuary -- speaks of a safe place where we cannot be touched. And yet, if we are to grow, by definition we must embrace this change ... even without knowing precisely what it will be or where it will lead.

But that's OK ... because what we do know is this. That Jesus didn't just give us the Great Commission and leave. He gave us the Great Commission and ended it with a promise: "Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Amidst all the change, that is one thing that will never change. And that has always and will always make all the difference.

As we prepare for our annual meeting and conversations next Sunday, think about this:

Why is growth important to you? To us?

What are the opportunities for us to embody growth today and in the future?

Tomorrow: Service.

See you Sunday!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Our Shared Values - Communication

Last year, we spent time speaking clearly & listening deeply to one another about what the values are that bind our Cathedral community together. Who is it we believe God has made us to be? Who is it we believe Christ is loving us into becoming. From this came five core values, five things we believe Jesus dreams for us to love: 
Spirituality & Faith, Diversity, Communication, Growth, Service

This week, I'm looking at one of these each day through the lenses of scripture, tradition and reason/experience.


"Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness." -- Philippians 2:3-7

We talk about communication a lot here at Christ Church Cathedral. We have a strong sense that good communication is a marker of good health , and that communication is a tool that will help us in living our values. But we've struggled with it as a value per se.

One Sunday morning this past Advent, I heard our own Mark Jordan lead an excellent Adult Christian Formation conversation on the incarnation, and he quoted this from Thomas Aquinas:

"The very nature of God is goodness ... and it belongs to the essence of goodness to share (communicare) itself with others."

There was that word (albeit parenthetically and in Latin!) right there on the page ... communicare ... communication. OF COURSE it is one of our values, because it is part of the very essence of God.

The piece of scripture above is from the Christ Hymn in Philippians -- it is maybe the oldest piece of Christian poetry. It described what happened in Jesus as God "emptying" godself into human form. God sharing the divine self with us. God putting everything God was and expressing it in our language ... the language of being human.

In Jesus, God shared God's authentic, true self with us. In Jesus, God communicates with us.

Embracing communication as a value means we several things. It means we share our true and authentic selves with one another ... that this is a place where we are honest with each other and we live with integrity. It also means we value not just doing that for ourselves but sharing it with the world. We value not being turned inward but reaching outward ... proclaiming the Gospel, inviting people into it, sharing the essence of God's goodness with others.

The icon of this value at Christ Church Cathedral ... and cathedrals historically ... is our bells. For more than a century ... through every high and low point not just in our own community but in the life of this city ... the bells of Christ Church Cathedral have communicated, have proclaimed that God is here in the midst of us. That God is here rejoicing, weeping, working, wrestling. For more than a century, our bells have gathered God's people together and sent them out into the world.

But our committment to communication doesn't stop there. Because where we share our true selves as God's children most is when we are out ministering in the world in the course of our daily lives. We were communicators of God's love when Kathryn Nelson served on the Library Board and every time Fred Peterson saw a patient. Every time Huldah Blamoville lobbies for better health care or Helen Schleipman helps a nervous parent at Children's Hospital. We are communicators of God's love every time a member of the pastoral care team visits someone who is homebound, or when Becket Clark turns his band fundraiser into a foodraiser for Miss Carol's Breakfast.

We are communicators of God, sharers of God's essence every time we live in community with one another with integrity and every time we point outward to share God's love with the world.

As we prepare for our annual meeting and conversations next Sunday, think about this:

Why is communication important to you? To us?

What are the opportunities for us to embody communication today and in the future?

Tomorrow: Growth.

See you Sunday!

in Christ's love,

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Our Shared Values -- Diversity

Last year, we spent time speaking clearly & listening deeply to one another about what the values are that bind our Cathedral community together. Who is it we believe God has made us to be? Who is it we believe Christ is loving us into becoming. From this came five core values, five things we believe Jesus dreams for us to love: 
Spirituality & Faith, Diversity, Communication, Growth, Service
This week, I'm looking at one of these each day through the lenses of scripture, tradition and reason/experience.

As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way. - Mark 10:46-52

This might not be the scripture reading you were expecting for a reflection on diversity.

Maybe you were expecting Galatians 3:28 ("neither Jew nor Greek ...neither slave nor free... all are one in Christ Jesus.), or maybe Acts 10:1-48 (Peter's dream and his meeting with Cornelius ... "God shows no partiality") or even Revelation 7:9-10 ("a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.")

There are many pieces of scripture that tell us of Jesus' surpassing love for the diversity of God's people, and our call to do the same. The story of blind Bartimaeus tells us even more, though. This story tells us what loving like Christ loves looks like in the context of our community.

Bartimaeus was different, an outisder who lived on the margins. The disciples didn't think he was even worthy of their attention much less Jesus' attention. But look what Jesus does. Jesus takes this outsider and brings him into the center of the community. He makes Bartimaeus' concerns -- not the concerns of the disciples or the people who were majority of the band around Jesus, but the concerns of this outsider -- his focus. He brings Bartimaeus to wholeness and then Bartimaeus becomes part of the community.

The diversity of the Body of Christ is not about tolerance. It is not about "anyone can join as long as they act like us." It is not about "anyone can join and be who they are over there ... away from the community's center." The diversity of Christ is about every person who joins being able to be who they are and having that identity shape the entire community. The diversity of Christ is about not just letting the stranger in the door but putting them at the center and making their concerns the community concerns. And then being a part of Christ's healing and making whole.

It is about making insiders out of outsiders.

We have a proud history of this kind of diversity in many ways as Christ Church Cathedral. Certainly our being an Oasis congregation and embracing our identity as a GLBT congregation is a wonderful example of this ... and it hasn't been without struggle. The struggle exists in other areas, too. In embracing the racial diversity of our Cathedral. In embracing that we are a Cathedral of children and youth. In embracing that we are a Cathedral that has people who have no homes who are every bit as faithful to Christ and this Cathedral as people whose addresses fill up our directory.

In my nearly four years walking together with you, I have seen us deeply love the richness of our diversity and still struggle mightily with the conflict and challenge it brings. Diversity is hard ... perhaps the hardest one of these values for us to embody. It says something about us that, hard as it is, we are adamant that it is a piece of who we are and who God dreams for us to be.

As we prepare for our annual meeting and conversations next Sunday, think about this:

Why is diversity important to you? To us?

What are the opportunities for us to embody diversity today and in the future?

Tomorrow: Communication.

See you Sunday!