Monday, September 01, 2014

#WeSpeakOutBecause | A Sermon for "True Religion Sunday"




#WeSpeakOutBecause
August 31, 2014 | All Saints Church, Pasadena

Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion …

Words we just prayed in the “Collect of the Day” –
the prayer which began our worship this morning
as it does every Sunday with words
intended to summarize the themes of the lessons
appointed for this particular day.

Let me just start by saying that “True Religion” –
(the thing we just prayed for God to increase in us)
is, I am convinced,
a whole lot easier to pray for
than it is either to recognize or to agree on.

Here’s my own “religion confession:”
I spent a number years
suffering from what I can only describe as a “religion allergy.”
That is maybe a weird admission from a priest,
but when I was a young adult
I spent a lot of time
explaining to people
that I didn’t need religion in order to be spiritual.

I also spent a lot time avoiding attending the church I grew up in
which was so full of rules and rituals,
do’s and don’ts, judgment, criticism
and cranky old people talking about the love of God and being mean to each other that there seemed to be no actual room for GOD –
which I was naïve enough to think
was supposed to be the POINT of this whole thing in the first place!

It got to the point
where religion became a roadblock in my spiritual journey –
and so I took a detour.
And because God works in mysterious ways,
my “spiritual GPS” led me back to the Episcopal Church of my birth
and to All Saints Church!

And eventually I looked up the word “religion” in the dictionary
and here’s what I found:
it turns out to have the same root as the word “ligament” –
that which “binds together” –
and one of its definitions is
“that which binds together people in their quest for the divine.”

• Not “that which insists that our way is the only way.”
• Not “that which gives people license to villainize, exclude and even kill in God’s name.”
• Not “that which creates enough rules and restrictions that everybody you disagree with has to stay out.”

No – in the Gospel According to Merriam Webster, the definition of religion is:
“That which binds together people in their quest for the divine.”

And if that’s true religion then that’s something I’m willing to pray for.
To work for.  To speak out for.
Because it turns out the allergy I had wasn’t to “religion” at all –
but to what it had become in the hands of those
who had taken what God intended as a means to draw all people TO God
and turned it into a system to hold everyone they found unacceptable
AWAY from God.

And it turns out the allergy I had was the same one Jesus had –
and acted on – throughout the gospels
whenever he was confronted by the rule makers,
gate keepers and power brokers of his generation.

People like those who complained that he was healing on the Sabbath –
who gossiped about his eating with tax collectors, sinners and outcasts –
who complained that his disciples didn’t wash their hands the right way …
and dozens of other examples all throughout the Bible.

“And what is the greatest commandment?”
(in other words “what IS “true religion?)
they will famously ask him later (trying to trap him)
And Jesus will tell them:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind – this is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it –love your neighbor as yourself. On these two hang ALL the law and the prophets.

There you have it: the essence of true religion –
that which binds us together in our search for the divine –
turns out to be love:
love for God and for each other.

ANYTHING else that we manage to create –
even our most beloved rituals,
most comforting routines,
most cleverly designed systems –
can become religious roadblocks if they themselves
become more important to us that this walk in love,
this quest for the divine –
this journey to God.

Just like Peter in today’s gospel,
we risk abandoning the “heavenly things” – like love, justice and compassion -- and holding onto “earthly things” – like power, judgment and condemnation -- whenever we create a litmus test for inclusion
that is based on anything other
than these first and second commandments
Jesus calls us to honor above all others.

And nobody – including Jesus -- ever said it would be easy. And a great example is Peter -- AKA Saint One-Step-Forward-Two-Steps-Back. In the gospel last week we heard about his “go to the head of the class; A+ student” day – when in answer to Jesus’ questions “who do you say that I am?” he hit a grand slam.

“You are the Messiah. The Son of the Living God.” And Jesus gave him a gold star, sent him to the head of the class and gave him the keys to the kingdom, declaring “you are the rock on whom I will build my church.” That was Matthew 16:20.

Today we get part two of that chapter – Matthew 16:21 … and Peter goes from “here are the keys to the kingdom” to “get behind me Satan” in sixty seconds – a great illustration of just what a challenge it is to stay true to true religion.

For the true religion we inherit is nothing less 
than that which equips us to be the Body of Christ
in a world in desperate need …
NOT in need of the church’s dogma and doctrine
but of Jesus’ love and compassion.

If we are indeed to be that Body of Christ in the World
we need ligaments of love
which will be limber enough to stretch
not only to include all who wish to be bound together in this community of faith
but to speak out whenever any member of the human family is
oppressed or marginalized
wounded or afraid
silenced or in danger.

Because the true religion we claim
the true religion Jesus threw down
is “love your neighbor as yourself.”
All your neighbors.
Not just the ones who live in your zip code or are part of your car pool.
Not just the ones who think like you or vote like you or worship like you.
ALL your neighbors.
Every. Single. One.

Seriously.

And yet true religion –
that which binds us together in our search for the divine –
seems to be in shorter supply in this strife torn world of ours
than water is in this drought plagued state of ours.

As we look at the world around us
on this last day of August in the year 2014
we do not have to look very far
to see example after example
of religion being hijacked and used as a weapon
of mass discrimination and of mass destruction.

The most current, flagrant and obvious example
is the decimation caused by the so-called “Islamic State” or ISIS.

Our friend and interfaith ally, Salam Al-Marayati –
leader of MPAC … the Muslim Public Affairs Council
… minced no words this week in speaking out against the atrocities being committed in the name of his religion.

“Though it uses Islam as a source of popularity and legitimacy, it is a forgery
... It has nothing to do with Islam. It is a mafia; it is a group of thugs.”

And yet the collateral damage of the actions of these unconscionable terrorists has been an upswing in anti-Muslim sentiments and Islamophobic rhetoric.

In response, MPAC launched a social media campaign
called #ISpeakOutBecause
 to provide a platform for people of conscience
to speak out for human rights
because “speaking out in response
to escalating violence and extremism taking place all over the world
is a critical step to spreading awareness and creating change.”

So of course I “spoke out.” My contributions to the twitter feed included:
• #ISpeakOutBecause when Jesus said "love your neighbors" He meant ALL your neighbors.
• #ISpeakOutBecause thinking ISIS represents Islam is like thinking the KKK represents Christianity.
• #ISpeakOutBecause Maher Hathout is right: "God does not belong to on religion. All religions belong to God.

Which gives me a great excuse to tell my favorite Maher Hathout story.
Many of you know our great interfaith friend Dr. Maher Hathout
– founder of the MPAC and a true “giant of justice” here in Los Angeles.
We were honored to have Dr. Hathout
 in this pulpit in 2011 as part of an interfaith preaching series,
and he ended his homily that Sunday with these words:

"May each person walk out of these doors at the end of the service
feeling that he or she is more liberated and energized to do good for others
than sticking to the primitiveness of
'my religion is better than the other religion.'"

And we processed out down the aisle and out the front door –
only to confronted by a phalanx of protesters across the street –
with picket signs and megaphones and shouting the same kind of stuff
protesters usually shout when they show up at All Saints Church.

Only this bunch went one better –
they had a taller-than-me Bible-on-wheels …
complete with built in loudspeaker.
And … but wait it gets better …
on the front of the cover was written in gold letters:
The Holy Bible by Jesus.

Seriously.

I couldn’t make this up. Immediately after hearing Dr. Hathout’s challenge
for ALL of us to move beyond
the “primitiveness of my religion is better than yours”
we were confronted with our crazy Christian cousins
making the point of just how much work we have left to do.

Standing together on the steps of the north door, all I could do was apologize to Dr. Hathout -- and he patted my arm and gently said:

“There, there. We all have crazy cousins.
I will work on mine and I will pray for you while you work on yours.”

And that is why We Speak Out.

We Speak Out Because there are too many people who think they know enough about being a Christian not to want to be one because everything they know about Christians they heard from Pat Robertson blaming gay people for Hurricane Katrina … or people with loudspeakers who think Jesus wrote the Bible.

We Speak Out when Christianity gets hijacked by those who confuse their right to believe whatever they choose to believe about God with their right to write those beliefs into our Constitution.

We Speak Out Because the neighbors Jesus called us to love as ourselves are refugee children at our borders. And workers fighting wage theft. And unarmed teenagers shot in our streets. And women needing health care. And gay people being blamed for Katrina and a whole laundry list of other things. And Muslims being blamed for ISIS.

We Speak Out Because it is part of the DNA of All Saints Church
to not just pray for but to live out
the “true religion” of God’s love, justice and compassion.
To preach peace in season and out of season –
yes, even the election season.

We Speak Out Because as challenging as the present is
we know we have met challenges in the past.
• 1940’s – John Scott/Union Station/Manzanar
• 1960’s – John Burt/death threats/MLK
• And in the decades since … for women’s equality and marriage equality; for immigration justice and racial justice; against torture, the death penalty and the War in Iraq. The list goes on and on.

We Speak Out Because we Claim the Blessing of True Religion
as the gift God has given us
to enable us to do the work God has given us to do –
binding us together as we work to become a place of radical hospitality –
where all are received joyously:
even those we disagree with,
even those who wish we weren’t here;
even those who would prefer
we would keep someone else out.

We Speak Out because the truth of our religion
-- that which binds us together in our search for the divine –
is the thread that unites us all as mortals …
is the ligament of love.

And so I close this morning with a reading from the Gospel According to My Friend Joe Henry.
I found it on Facebook in his tribute to Robin Williams at the time of his death:

He ushered us through darkness, whistled us past the graveyard;
showed us that what is funny is what is true,
and what is true is the thread that unites all of us as mortals,
while we pretend not be. His message was pure, even when he couldn't live up to it.
And it was, simply,
"take heart: we are all lost pilgrims; and nothing but love will find us home."

We Speak Out Because our true religion is the truth
that nothing but love will find us home.
Amen.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

This Sunday, don’t you dare be nice

h/t friend Rachel Nyback -- who posted the link to a blog I've not run across before. Totally bookmarking it. I'm not preaching this Sunday -- not out loud in a pulpit, anyway. But these words to preachers preaching this Sunday after this week strike a chord deep in my heart and in my belly this Saturday night:
"This Sunday, don’t you dare be nice. Don’t you be tepid. Don’t you put out a puff pasty Jesus-loves-us conclusion — not unless you’re saying it with your head up and your voice loud and your fist on the pulpit.

You make sure you are impeccable. You make sure you look like strong and capable and impressive enough to fly a helicopter of terrified people off a mountain where they have been in fear for their lives and their children’s lives and starving and thirsting for a week. Do you see that it is you who has to fly that mission on Sunday morning?

And please forgive my ranting. I just didn’t know where else to put this if not to give it to you." 
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

#I Speak Out Because ...



When the Muslim Public Affairs Council started the hashtag #ISpeakOutBecause , they intended for users to take part by sharing why they stood against oppression around the world.

What they got was hijacked by a bunch of Islamophobic tweets ... and my response ...

 "#ISpeakOutBecause Islamophobic tweets are making the case for why standing together against ALL terrorism is so important"

... got included in the Aljazeera story.

My other favorite was the one I posted above ... making the point (I hoped) that blaming all Muslims for the actions of murderous, thugs who hijack religion as an excuse to perpetrate mayhem makes as much sense as blaming all Christians for the KKK -- who also lynched, murdered and terrorized people.

And yes, I know I'm on vacation. And yes, I know everything will still be a mess when I go back to work on Monday. And yes, I supposed I could have just curled up on the beach with a novel or Hillary's latest book and ignored it all.

But I didn't. I spoke out because sometimes that's the only thing you can do. And sometimes doing nothing is not an option.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Religious Discrimination 101

So I got super irate watching the horrible news about the Yazidi people on the verge of religious based genocide and simultaneously getting a heads up about a bill pending in Congress exploiting "religious discrimination" as an excuse to attack LGBT families.

So this Huffington Post blog happened.

Please consider reading, sharing, tweeting, etc. And DO call your rep ... or his or her intern ... let's face it, they're all on vacation ... and make some noise about this one. Thanks!

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Of Loaves and Fish and Laundry | Homily for Sunday, August 3, 2014

The story of Jesus feeding the five thousand with only five loaves and two fish is one of the most familiar stories in the Bible. In fact, it is the only miracle story – other than the resurrection -- that shows up in all four Gospels. And what that tells me is that there was something important the gospel writers – and the Holy Spirit who we believe inspired them – wanted us to learn from it.

I suspect it was something more important than “plan ahead – pack a lunch.” I also suspect that the point of the story is much more important than endless speculation on “how did he do that?”

Was it a metaphysical miracle that literally transformed those two fish and five loaves into enough food to feed over 5000 people? Or was it a sociological miracle that inspired those gathered to share what they had with each other and to find – miracle of miracles – that when we step out of our fear that there won’t be enough for “me and mine” we find out there is actually plenty for everybody?

Whatever kind of miracle it was, it got everybody’s attention. And I think part of the reason it shows up in all four Gospels – and is one of the most familiar stories in the Bible – is that addresses one of the most debilitating fears human beings face … and that’s the fear that there won’t be enough.

I look at the nightly news and it seems to me that every single conflict we watch unfolding can be reduced down to that fear. There won’t be enough. Someone else is getting more than I am. We can’t let those people take or share or participate in what is “ours.” It’s all about the fear that there won’t be enough to share.

Not enough Holy Land to share between Palestinians and Israelis.

Not enough territory to coexist between Russia and the Ukraine.

Not enough resources to care for the refugee children at our borders.

Not enough jobs to solve the ongoing immigration crisis

Not enough God to go around – fueling sectarian violence and interfaith warfare over religion.

Not enough equal protection to share – as if giving some marriages legal standing somehow takes something away from other marriage.

Even not enough BASEBALL to share … as the Dodgers and their cable television partners argue about how to afford to give access to the games to more Los Angeles baseball fans. (OK … that example isn’t in the same category as the others – but I think you get my point.)

The point is we as a human race have bought the fiction – the fantasy – the lie – that there is NOT enough to go around and we need to grab ours while we can and if others get left out … well, that’s their problem.

And the reason this story – this miracle – holds such a central place in our Christian faith is that it shows us in tangible, concrete terms that Jesus rejects that fiction – that fantasy – that lie … and calls us … IF we are going to follow him … to reject it, too. To believe that there is indeed enough. And the best way we can live into that is by starting with what we have – even if it’s the 21st century version of five loaves and two fish – and sharing it.

And that brings me to the laundry part of the “loaves and fish and laundry.” There’s a brilliant – relatively new – initiative popping up all over the country called “Laundry Love.”

It is a project that helps to wash laundry of individuals and/or families living in poverty. It is as simple as volunteers working in partnership with Laundromats to provide space and resources to make it possible for those living on the margins to have the basic dignity of clean clothes. A growing number of Episcopal churches around the Diocese of Los Angeles are participating in the initiative.

It was also featured in an NPR story last week – with moving stories of how much the gift of something as relatively small as a handful of quarters and some laundry soap – can mean to the lives of those having to make choices like whether to feed their children or wash their clothes this week.

And in those stories I head the connection to this morning’s gospel story. None of us has enough to fix the whole world. None of us has enough to feed 5000 people at a moment’s notice. But we all have something. A loaf. A fish. Some quarters. Some Tide. And sometimes the miracle is that we use what we have to meet the need in front of us.

Just as Jesus used what he had to feed the people who surrounded him on that hillside in Galilee we can use what we have to feed the needs of those who surround us. And every time we do that, we participate with God in bringing the Good News of the Gospel to life in the world.

The Good News that there is enough.Enough blessing. Enough justice. Enough love. And the God we belong to – the God of abundant love and compassion – loved us enough to become one of us in the person of Jesus – in order to show us how to love each other. One loaf. One fish. One laundry load at a time. Amen.

Friday, August 01, 2014

12 years ago today ...

Twelve years ago today I moved into the corner cubicle in the "temporary building" in the north driveway on the campus of All Saints Church in Pasadena to begin a new chapter in my ministry as Executive Director of something called Claiming the Blessing (CTB). It was from that "corner office" I would spend the next 18 months traveling around the church giving more parish halls presentations, attending more strategy meetings and making more fundraising pitches than you could shake a stick at. (Case in point this shot from Trinity Santa Barbara.)

Claiming the Blessing was convened as an intentional collaborative ministry of leading Episcopal justice organizations (including Integrity, Oasis, Beyond Inclusion and the Episcopal Women's Caucus) in partnership with the Witness magazine and other individual leaders in the Episcopal Church focused on: promoting wholeness in human relationships, abolishing prejudice and oppression, and healing the rift between sexuality and spirituality in the Church.

Those were our official marching orders.

We were also convened by some very smart equality activists -- LGBT and straight allies -- who not only recognized the truth that we were wasting precious energy competing with each other from our different "silo" organizations and ministries ... and that the way we were going to make a difference was to [a] tell the truth about that [b] work to come up with achievable goals and then [c] collaborate on strategies to achieve them.

Since 2002, our advocacy has included liturgies for the blessing of same-sex relationships, equal access to all orders of ministry by qualified gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender candidates and supporting civil and sacramental marriage equality.

I could tell lots and lots of stories about how that journey has played out over the last 12 years. Some of them can be found on our website. Others you're going to have to wait for the book. But suffice to say it is absolutely a true thing that the course of the history of the Episcopal Church ... and I would be so bold as to say the wider movement for LGBT equality ... was influenced by the decisions made at those first round table meetings at Vails Gate and the College of Preachers. By the willingness of leaders to tell the truth to each other in order to triumph over turf wars and to forge partnerships and friendships that have stood the test of time. And the test of General Conventions. And the test of Lambeth Conference. And ...

Well, you get the drift.

There are a boatload of pictures here. They end at General Convention 2012 in Indianapolis -- where the Episcopal Church "claimed the blessing" by doing what we started out asking for: approving rites for the blessing of same-sex relationships. But the work isn't done yet. And we're gearing up now for General Convention 2015 where we will be working for canonical change to make sacramental marriage equality a reality in the Episcopal Church, just as civil marriage equality has become a reality in 50% of the jurisdictions in the USA.

But today -- August 1, 2014 -- I'm remembering showing up at All Saints Church with a couple of plastic crates of files and letterhead in my car and the warnings of some of my clergy colleagues in my ears that I was making a terrible mistake ... that if I stepped out of parish ministry I'd never get back in ... that I'd be marginalized as an "activist" and never get to exercise pastoral ministry ... that I was limiting my options and ...

Well, you the drift.

I'm delighted they were wrong. I'm delighted that twelve years at All Saints have given me more opportunities and challenges than I could ever have "asked for or imagined." And most of all I'm delighted at the extraordinary privilege of being able to do this gospel work with a truly amazing cloud of witnesses over the year.

Ed Bacon, Katie Sherrod, Jim White, Sandye A Wilson, Elizabeth Kaeton, Michael Hopkins, John Clinton Bradley, Christine Mackey-Mason, Joseph Lane, Rosa Lee Harden, Kevin Jones, Peggy Adams, Cynthia Black, John Kirkley, Louie Clay, Kim Byham, Jason Samuel, Mike Clark, Bishop Gene Robinson ... OMG .. this is like an Oscar speech ... who am I forgetting?

La lucha continua -- the struggle continues ... that's the truth.

But so do the blessings, my friends. So do the blessings!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

July 29, 2014: A Red Letter/Red Blazer Day!

On July 29, 1974 eleven women, three bishops and the Holy Spirit showed up at the Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia -- and the sound heard round the church was either the "end of the world as we know it" or "the arc of the moral universe bending toward justice" -- depending on your point of view.


Celebrations, observances and reflections have abounded over the last days and weeks as we've approached this important anniversary in the life of the Episcopal Church -- the first ordinations of women as priests. In my parish, we had a Women's Ordination History Project -- featuring the stories of women who were either ordained from or have served at All Saints over the years.

In Philadelphia on Saturday, there was a day long celebration, including a symposium and festival Eucharist. Episcopal News Service provided extensive coverage ... including a video of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's sermon ... along with a great historical time line, putting the events in context.

I preached on Sunday a sermon entitled "A Woman's Place Is ... ?"


And Diana Butler Bass posted this wonderful reflection by Bishop Daniel Corrigan, one of the bishops who participated in the service. She writes "These are his words, from 1975, on what it means to be part of a church in "a tradition of revolution." I was fortunate to know Daniel Corrigan in the final years of his life, and consider his vision of the "Great Coming Church" one that I cherish and try to humbly continue in my own work."

* * * * *
Why I Ordained a Woman in Philadelphia
by Right Reverend Daniel Corrigan, 1975

During the month of July 1974 it came over me that this kind of decision had been demanded of me over and over again during fifty years of service as a minister in the Church of God. This kind of decision! What kind of decision? We emerge from a tradition of revolution. We are presently trying to muster up enough independence to celebrate this gift from our fathers which is well nigh spent. We live within a conform-or-perish society.

We are constantly having to choose between the teachings of Jesus and the presuppositions of this society which are deeply ingrained in most of us and take precedence for us over any honest response to the obvious demands of his words and life. It is even more disturbing when we become aware that the church herself is structured like the rest of society. This has been true by and large since Constantine. We have tended to point with pride to this identity. And in all times and all places men and women have made decisions which they thought conformed to his spirit and will in the face of powerful societies which demanded conformity or death.

The vows we have taken, do define our being, shape our thinking, and motivate our actions. I realize more and more that I have been formed by my life in the body of Christ. Serious conflicts between what seemed my duty as a Christian and the demands of citizenship have emerged many times. . .

What kind of decisions are demanded by life?

...I am affirming that the lifelong effort to conform our life to the vows which have been taken moves us into change, change in ourselves, change in our understanding of the scriptures, the creeds, the Thirty-nine Articles, the Ten Commandments, church history, etc. These changes challenge us to cross frontiers, to go into Samaria, Tyre and Sidon where we cry out, “What in God's name am I doing here?” So faithfulness to part of our vows leads into conflict with other parts. Some of our rules and ways no longer express the understandings to which we have been led. This process goes on within the church—not just the Episcopal Church—but the universal church and is for the sake of the “Coming Great Church”—no matter how she may evolve...

Those who have been involved with institutions in the twentieth century will know how frozen these become and how unable to respond to the most obvious appeals for the services they were created to render, e.g., schools, hospitals, social services and courts of justice. Their capacity to create mechanisms further to slow them down is frightening.

The church is such an institution....A time can come, can come many times, when a person's thoughts and feelings are torn between the word and the rubric. Even as we choose what we believe the word demands and we move in obedience, we hear our own soul cry, with the taste of death in the mouth, “What in God's world am I now doing?”

During our years we have had to make many decisions if we were to maintain a living relationship to the word. And our response to the hard choices which face us now has been formed by all the previous efforts to keep the word and the action together. Even now the four horsemen of the apocalypse fill the time and space that remains. We are forced to consider slavery, war, disease, famine, political and economic injustice, genocide, racism and the subjugation of women with whatever light we may have received from our life in Christ. We now must live with utterly new images of the Universe, the Earth on which we live; a totally new understanding of our own inner life and the diverse lives and minds of the people of the earth. O Christ the way, the truth and the life, what is the unique light you would lume within me?


======

I know. Wow! And then this morning, colleague Rachel Nyback reminded me of a piece I wrote a few years ago about women, the church and red blazers. So I'm going to close this blog with that ... go find my red blazer ... and go to work! Happy Anniversary, Church!

[December 2007] As I was printing out "stuff" yesterday for our pre-convention meeting this morning with our parish delegates I realized this will be my 20th Annual Meeting of the Diocese of Los Angeles -- my first was back in 1987 and my, my, my ... what a difference a couple of decades make!

My first foray into "the councils of the church" was in 1987 when I was a lay delegate to Diocesan Convention from my parish in Ventura CA (St. Paul's) -- and my credential read "Mrs. Anthony Russell." (Never mind that MR Anthony Russell's involvement in the work of the Diocese of Los Angeles was to show up on Christmas Eve and Easter Sunday -- that was how we rolled in 1987.)

It was back in the day when we didn't dare run more than one woman in any of the elections. I remember a literal coin toss between two women clergy one year about which ONE would run for General Convention Deputy because the diocese would never send TWO women! I remember when I was in the ordination process being told it wasn't a good idea to wear my red blazer (and I LOVED my red blazer!) because red was a "power color" and I'd better pack it away until after I got safely ordained.

And I remember if we sang a hymn that wasn't in the hymnal or -- God forbid -- used a liturgy with expansive language -- there would be a queue at the microphone afterwards with dour clergymen asking for a "point of personal privilege" to express their outrage.

So yep, the church has changed in the 20 years I've been a delegate to the Annual Meeting of the Diocese of Los Angeles -- and my response to that versicle is "Thanks be to God!" There may be those who yearn for those halcyon days of yesteryear when women delegates were named "Mrs. Husband" and we knew better than to run more than one of us in any given election. But the rest of us are celebrating the steps forward this church has taken to overcome its sexism and are going to "keep on keepin' on" until we are fully the inclusive Body of Christ we are called to be.