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.