May our grief and hope empower us to act

Bishop Stephen Lane shared the following sermon at the Service of Lament for Gun Violence at St. Luke’s Cathedral in Portland on March 14. The service, one of many across the Episcopal Church, marked one month since the shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Channel 13-WGME-TV covered the service and interviewed Bishop Lane.

Bishop Lane’s sermon

Psalm 23; Isaiah 61:1-3; Matthew 2:16-18

[Bishop singing] – Trisagion, Archangelsky
Holy God, Holy and Mighty
Holy Immortal One, Have mercy upon us

Thank you for coming out this evening. A Service of Lament is not an easy thing to sit through, and I thank you for your courage and your hope in coming here.

We all know the little metaphor about the frog and the pot. Put a frog in a pot, so it’s said, and turn the heat up slowly, and the poor frog slowly cooks to death without ever trying to escape. The heat rises so slowly that the frog never notices until it’s too late.

I think something like this has happened to us and to our country in relation to gun violence. For the most part, gun violence is so dispersed, so private, that it goes unnoticed. A large number of gun deaths – half – are suicides. Another large number of deaths are the result of domestic violence. We read about them here and there without putting together the reality that the number of deaths across our country now exceeds 30,000 a year, more than 38,000 in both 2016 and 2017. It takes something like the mass shooting at Parkland High School to get our attention, to tell us that the pot is at full boil.

And it is at full boil. The Las Vegas music festival shooting resulted in 58 dead and 851 injured from a single gunman… Some folks are still hospitalized. Full boil.

Yet, awareness of the boiling pot is not enough. What’s needed is time to count the cost, to feel the loss. The response to any death, to every death, must be grief.

A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and much grieving.  Rachel weeping for her children, and she did not want to be comforted, because they were no more. Or as Andrew Pollack said in testimony to the President about his daughter, Meadow, one of 17 killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, There should have been one school shooting and we should have fixed it. And I’m pissed. Because my daughter, I’m not going to see again. She’s not here. She’s not here. She’s in North Lauderdale King David cemetery, that is where I go to see my kid now.

A time of lament is deeply embedded in our Judeo-Christian tradition as the appropriate response to the infinite value of every human life, lives bearing the image of God, and deeply related to our own. We stop tonight to think of the lives that are here no more, that are gone from us forever.

Lament faces the reality of loss and death. Lament gives voice to grief. Lament gives human voice to the pain of God over the loss of God’s children. It is fundamental to our humanity that we take time to lament.

[Singing]
Holy God, Holy and Mighty
Holy Immortal One, Have mercy upon us

Lament is not, however, hopeless…

In a private letter to the House of Bishops, Episcopalians Philip and April Schentrup wrote about their daughter, Carmen, and called us to action. They write: Our hearts are saddened for the loss of our beautiful little girl and the absence of her amazing presence, but we cannot be sad for Carmen. We believe that Carmen’s murder was not part of God’s plan and that God is saddened by the violence in this world more than we can know. We know that God’s promise is for us to be with him in heaven, and in faith, we believe that Carmen is in heaven, in the loving embrace of God. She awaits us, loved and cared for.

And so we believe. God is doing more for Carmen than we can ask or imagine. God has received Carmen and holds her forever. God’s love gives us hope that all is not lost and that hope compels us to action.

As Carmen’s parents went on: As our family struggles to pick up the pieces of our shattered lives, we ask the Good Lord daily for the strength to fight the good fight, to finish the race. In our attempt to heal from despair and grief, we are compelled to try and make the world a better place for our two remaining children and for all children.

The time has come for those of who believe in God to say that gun violence is not of God. It is not acceptable to us as God’s people. Whoever the victims, however the death, sudden death is not what God wants. Whatever the remedies needed, and there are many, the time is passed for us to pretend we don’t know the water is boiling. The time is now to tell the truth and to act.

Isaiah proclaimed, The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God.

We are the Lord’s chosen. We are the people called and baptized to carry the Good News of the coming kingdom. We are the ones called to prepare the way… and the time is now.

May our grief and our hope empower us to act. May we crawl out of the pot and speak, not only to save ourselves, but all of God’s children. May we recognize that unfettered access to guns, access that exceeds anything we would consider for cars, is blighting our lives and killing our neighbors. Even in the valley of the shadow of death, may we be voices for hope and for peace and for the infinite value of every human life.

[Singing]
Holy God, Holy and Mighty
Holy Immortal One, Have mercy upon us

Bishop Lane shares his trip to the Diocese of Alaska

Bishops of the Episcopal Church gathered for a week in the Diocese of Alaska earlier this month.

Bishop Lane’s video offers a glimpse into their visit, including a blessing of the landscape of a former gold mine, a visit to St. Jude’s, North Pole, and singing in a huge pot of moose head soup where bishops and spouses were welcomed by the local community.

At the close of the meeting, Bishops offered a word to the Church. They wrote, in part, “God calls us to listen to each other with increased attention. It is only with unstopped ears and open eyes that our hearts and lives will be changed. It is through the reconciling love of God in Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit that we and the earth itself will be healed.” Read it all here.

Check out additional coverage from Episcopal News Service.

Bishops of Alaska, Arizona, Maine, Ohio, and West Virginia write to senators about the Graham-Cassidy bill

September 24, 2017

The Hon. Lisa Murkowski and the Hon. Dan Sullivan, Senators for Alaska
The Hon. John McCain and the Hon. Jeff Flake, Senators for Arizona
The Hon. Susan Collins and the Hon. Angus King, Senators for Maine
The Hon. Sherrod Brown and the Hon. Rob Portman, Senators for Ohio
The Hon. Joe Manchin and the Hon. Shelley Moore Capito, Senators for West Virginia

 Dear Senators:

 We, the leaders of the Episcopal Church dioceses in Alaska, Arizona, Maine, Ohio, and West Virginia, write to you as we gather in Fairbanks, Alaska, for one of our two annual meetings of the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church. We feel compelled to lift our voices together to urge you to vote against the passage of the Graham-Cassidy Bill. 

You have seen the recent report from Avalere Health on the impact this bill would have on federal healthcare spending over the next nine years. A cut of $215 billion in spending would result, across our five states alone, in a reduction of $23 billion by 2026. After 2026, when the block grants are cut, it would leave our hospitals and providers and, most importantly, the people they serve in a healthcare free fall, just as baby boomers create the largest demand for healthcare our country will have ever experienced.

The provisions of Graham-Cassidy that eliminate Medicaid expansion and reduce subsidies for lower income people give us further cause to urge you to vote against it. Our Baptismal Covenant calls us to respect the dignity of every human being. It is our responsibility to challenge you, our elected leaders, to work toward justice and equality for the welfare of all people, not only those who can afford health insurance.

The news that this bill may come to a vote as early as next week is deeply disturbing to us. A piece of legislation that, in light of its specific provisions, is likely to affect the healthcare of millions of Americans for decades to come, deserves the full consideration of the Senate Health Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. Passage of this bill without the benefit of a full Congressional Budget Office assessment does a disservice of the highest magnitude to the American people. The provisions in Graham-Cassidy that would require each state essentially to re-invent its healthcare system are guaranteed to raise the cost of healthcare for the average consumer. Additionally, the lack of guarantees for essential health benefits such as maternity care and substance abuse treatment casts a blind eye on deeper problems that face many people in the states where we minister, particularly the challenges of rural obstetrical care and the rapidly worsening opioid crisis. 

We urge you, Senators, in the spirit of fairness and proper process, to stand up against a bill that would cause such disruption and chaos to healthcare for millions of our citizens, especially the most vulnerable among us. As Christians and as faith leaders in our respective states, we ask that you stand firm on the democratic process that serves us all. Access to such healthcare is crucial to maintaining the social safety net that allows our communities to flourish. 

Your votes and voices are critical in ensuring that any Senate bill has a full hearing and offers an opportunity for robust debate, to the worthy end that we improve on the Affordable Care Act and responsibly reform healthcare in this country.

Please be assured that all of you, in addition to your colleagues, remain in our prayers as you engage in the important work of leading our nation. May each of you be graced with the wisdom and strength to serve all Americans. 

Thank you for the opportunity to share our concerns.

Respectfully and gratefully,

The Rt. Rev. Mark Lattime, Bishop of Alaska
The Rt. Rev. Kirk Smith, Bishop of Arizona
The Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane, Bishop of Maine
The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth, Bishop of Ohio
The Rt. Rev. Thomas Breidenthal, Bishop of Southern Ohio
The Rt. Rev. Michael Klusmeyer, Bishop of West Virginia

______
The letter as a PDF

An open letter to Maine Episcopalians in the wake of Charlottesville

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Over the past weekend, as white supremacists marched and rioted in Charlottesville, VA – spouting hate about Jews, blacks, immigrants, and just about anyone who is not white and male – the world once again witnessed America’s unresolved conflicts over race. To many longtime participants in the quest for racial justice, it felt as if we had lost 50 years, that we hadn’t advanced much since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: white supremacy has no place in the Christian Church or American culture. Race is an artificial concept to begin with, a mere adaptive biological response to the environment, not a distinguishing characteristic of human beings. Culture is real; race is not. Moreover, white supremacy is a corruption of our fundamental beliefs as Christians: that all of us are created in the image of God and, in Christ, are brothers and sisters. Our equality before God allows for no exceptions. Our equal dignity as human beings requires, as a minimum, our mutual respect.

I was certified as an anti-racism trainer by The Episcopal Church in the mid-1980s and was involved, as many of you were, in decades of anti-racism training. In the Diocese of Rochester, I believe we held perhaps two to three events a year for a long time. I think the training helped with individual awareness and understanding, but it failed to get at the underlying causes: the ways political and economic systems favor white people and, perhaps, more substantially, the notion that there isn’t enough to go around and that everything people of color get means a loss for white people. In the back of all our minds is the fear that there won’t be enough for me.

Bishops United Against Gun Violence, of which I am a member, offered a conference this past spring called “Unholy Trinity: The Intersection of Racism, Poverty and Gun Violence.” The conference explored the ways these three blights interact and reinforce one another. The victims of gun violence are often poor. The perpetrators of gun violence are also often poor – people on the outs seeking to keep others from getting what they believe is theirs. The end of this nightmare will require the dismantling of racist systems, the development of moral courage by white folks, attention to education and employment for all people, investment in housing and healthcare, and strict licensing and training for the use of handguns.

There will be no quick fix here, just a long, slow journey by people of faith and good will. White supremacy, white racism, is a cultural problem that white people must solve. It’s about how a white-dominated system uses power. A solution begins with self-examination about the ways white folks benefit from and participate in racist systems. It continues with learning how all of us can respect and support one another and how we can be allies of people of color, immigrants, and other victims of racism. It invites all of us to speak up on behalf of victims, to counter the words of hate with words of love and respect. It requires us to keep after our governments to do the right thing and to take steps to address poverty, education, employment, and health care. It roots us in the truth that God is with us and will never abandon us. We Americans will never prosper as a people if only some of us have education and employment; if only some of us have hope.

I commit, as your bishop, to strengthening our training in multicultural awareness and to help congregations strengthen their relationships with both Wabanaki people and New Mainers. I will continue to work with the Maine Episcopal Network for Justice and to keep these matters before our state and federal legislators. I invite you to make your own efforts, in your communities, to reinvigorate your relationships with people of color and to make common cause against hate.

This is a matter of adaptive change, of cultural change. And we understand that leaders alone cannot change our systems. It is up to each of us and all of us to stand “true to our God, true to our native land.”*

Faithfully,

The Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane
Episcopal Bishop of Maine

* from Lift Every Voice and Sing

Remembering to breathe God’s Spirit upon a weary world

Last weekend, Bishop Steve Lane visited with the people of the Diocese of Newark where he preached at their Convention Eucharist on the conversion of St. Paul.

He had this, in part, to say:

We have been chosen to bring God’s spirit to a weary world, not because we deserve this high calling, but because God loves us. Our hope is not rooted in our own abilities or the survival of our institutions, but the love of God which fills us, which pulls the scales from our eyes, and sends us out.

Read it all here or watch it below.

A message to clergy on the Anglican Communion

An open letter to the clergy of the Diocese of Maine

January 20, 2016

Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,

I’m sure you are all aware of the recent meeting of the Primates in Canterbury, England, and the expressed desire of a majority of the Primates that The Episcopal Church be excluded from certain meetings and decisions for three years. I did not write a statement at the time because I felt that Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s short video said all that needed to be said. I write now in response to inquiries I have received.

There are questions in many quarters about whether or not this decision of the Primates is within their authority. (See links below.) My own view is that the Primates have exceeded their authority. But it may be that the Anglican Consultative Council, meeting in April, will agree with the Primates that our church needs to take a time out. The Episcopal Church will participate fully in that meeting, and I am content to wait and see what happens.

What I’d like to talk with you about for a few moments is vocation. It is my view that, since the Fires of Smithfield, it has been the vocation of the Anglican Church to ask, “Who belongs at the table?” The answer, imperfectly and sometimes painfully wrought, has always been everyone. Protestant and Catholic, High Church, Low Church, and Broad Church, people of all races and colors, men and women alike – all belong at the table.

In this country, we’ve continued in that vocation. We’ve asked the questions of race and culture and, more recently, of human sexuality. And we have determined through more than forty years of conversation and reflection that gays and lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered persons all belong at the table. Members of The Episcopal Church in Maine have been leaders in that conversation. Our position is a scriptural one: All who are baptized into Christ are full members of the body. In Christ all are one. (Galatians 3:27-28) And in Christ, all have the right to the sacraments of the church and all are expected to live Christ-like lives. For me, the issue of marriage equality has never been about civil rights or equality, but about baptismal rights and responsibilities. As Desmond Tutu is fond of saying, “All means all.”

I grew up during the Civil Rights era, and one of things I learned from that time is that advancing rights, moving ahead of social, civil norms and religious norms, has a cost. People may not like what you’re doing. They may hold you accountable to unjust laws. Part of the vocation of seeking baptismal equality is peacefully holding firm in the midst of rancor, rejection and punishment. I believe we are being asked to exercise this part of our vocation.

I want to be clear that nothing has changed in either The Episcopal Church or the Diocese of Maine. LGBT persons are full members of the body of Christ and full members of The Episcopal Church. We will uphold marriage equality here and throughout The Episcopal Church. We will continue to work with our Anglican Communion partners in mission and ministry. We will offer our gifts, even if, in some quarters, our gifts are rejected. And we will engage one and all in peaceful conversation about the issues of the day, loving even our enemies. It may be that their hearts – and ours – will be moved.

This comes to you with my thanksgiving for your ministries and for all you do in your communities. God bless your work. In this season of light, may Christ be manifest in you, that your lives may be a light to the world.

Faithfully,

+stl

The Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane
Bishop of Maine

_____________________

http://abmcg.blogspot.com/2016/01/no-episcopal-church-has-not-been.html

http://liturgy.co.nz/primates-do-not-suspend-tec

http://angellmike.com/2016/01/14/what-happened-at-the-primates-meeting/

https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2016/22-january/news/uk/primates-ruling-is-not-binding-says-canon-lawyer

 

Fear shouldn’t compel lawmakers to do away with concealed carry permits

Bishops United Against Gun Violence, a group of more than 60 Episcopal bishops, will sponsor a prayerful procession through the streets of Salt Lake City on Sunday, June 28th, during the church’s General Convention. The gathering, called Claiming Common Ground Against Gun Violence, is intended to lift up the memory of all those who have died from gun violence and to demonstrate our conviction that life and freedom from fear must be available to all.

Bishop Lane recently shared his thoughts in the Bangor Daily News on gun violence and concealed carry permits:

“I believe Maine people, like folks in most of our country, have grown weary and afraid of gun violence. They are tired of being scared in this post-9/11 world. They are tired of working hard and not getting ahead. They are tired of hearing that others are taking advantage of a social safety net that they are supporting. They are afraid of living in a country that appears to be growing more dangerous by the day. I believe that hidden carry legislation of this kind contributes to that fear.”

Read full op-ed here.

#claimitgc #gc78  https://www.facebook.com/events/1455109778136169/

Guns and domestic violence can’t be separated

One of the more than 60 Episcopal bishops who are members of Bishops United Against Gun Violence, Bishop Lane offers this post today on the group’s website. Writing on the topic of guns and domestic violence homicides in Maine and beyond, he has this, in part, to say:

“As people of faith, those committed to protecting all of God’s children entrusted to our care, we must support the organizations that advocate for protection against domestic violence and improved mental health services. We must be vocal and visible in our support of legislation that addresses the complicated interplay between what is on the books and what is actually enforced. Our legislators, our prosecutors, and our local law enforcement officials need to hear from us.”

Read it all here.

Learning from Asia how to be church in the world

by Bishop Steve Lane

Bishop Steve and Gretchen Lane in the lobby of the Grand Hotel in Taipai
Bishop Steve and Gretchen Lane in the lobby of the Grand Hotel in Taipai

Until the recent trip of the House of Bishops to Taiwan, I had never been to Asia. In fact, I had never considered going there, and, frankly, wasn’t interested. I had been warned that Asia would be more foreign for a westerner than anywhere else in the world, and, given the limits of my travel budget, I was much more interested in the lands of my own heritage – England, Ireland and France. I also wasn’t eager to face the 13 hour flight from the US to Taiwan.

So it was with no little trepidation that I joined the pilgrimage to Taiwan. I went because I believed it was important to show support for a small diocese which is part of our church.

Having now been to Taiwan and Japan, I am happy to report that the trip was a very good experience and that I learned a great deal that is relevant and important to us here in the US.

The reason for our trip was to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Episcopal Church in Taiwan. The current Bishop, David Lai, has never missed a meeting of the House of Bishops in 17 years. So the House of Bishops went to Taiwan to honor the Diocese and David. The hospitality we received from the Diocese was thoughtful and gracious beyond all imagining. Our every need was anticipated, and we were accompanied by interpreters and guides whenever we ventured beyond the walls of our hotel.

The Grand Hotel, Taipai
The Grand Hotel, Taipai

I have never experienced such warmth and support, and I think we were all humbled by the care we received. For their part, the members of the Diocese felt deeply honored that we would make the journey and reveled in the opportunity to share what their church is doing.

Here in the west, we struggle with the increasing secularization of our culture. At one time, we claimed that our culture was a Christian culture. Now, considerably less than 50% of the people are active participants in any faith community. And yet our public values retain the imprint of Christendom, the co-mingling of faith and culture which began with Constantine.

In Taiwan, the culture has never been Christian. Adherents to Christianity number no more than 2-3% of the population. The predominant cultural norms are a mix of Buddhism, Taoism, and ancestor worship. Christianity is received with indifference until it is perceived to violate norms for family unity and for respect of ancestors. When that happens, Christianity is harshly rejected.

Nearly every Christian in Taiwan is a convert or a family member of a convert, and the choice to become a Christian is fraught with difficulty and the likelihood of rejection by one’s family. The church community becomes not only a faith community, but, in many ways, one’s family.

As a result, many newcomers to the church hold off on baptism for years. They do so out of respect for parents and fear of rejection. They participate fully in the life of the church, but may not tell family members. It takes a lot of courage to break with culture and family. “Open communion” permits them to participate and opens the door to fuller inclusion later.

Bishop David Lai of Taiwan celebrates the Eucharist at St. John's Cathedral. (Photo by ENS/Mary Frances Schjonberg)
Bishop David Lai of Taiwan celebrates the Eucharist at St. John’s Cathedral. (Photo by ENS/Mary Frances Schjonberg)

Worship in the Episcopal Church in Taiwan was very familiar, even if in Chinese. Worship at the Cathedral on Sunday included familiar hymns, sung in English and Mandarin. Bishop David chanted the liturgy using a familiar tone. A personal highlight for me was singing the Gloria with great gusto in Mandarin and English.

Mission and ministry are critically important in this context. Nearly all the recipients of the church’s ministry are non-Christian, and there is no expectation that they will become Christian (although a few do). Yet the ministry of the church is the means by which the church connects with the larger society and demonstrates its importance to the community. The churches of Asia are passionately committed to their ministries and are leaders in addressing issues of poverty, justice and peace. The voice of the church balances the sometimes passive acceptance of social ills that can be a feature of Asian culture.

We found the churches in Taiwan to be small but mighty. For example, Advent Church in Taipei ministers to the 7,000 students of St. John’s University (an Episcopal university), and a small church in southern Taiwan has planted 12 churches in the Philippines.

This commitment to ministry and to proclaim the Gospel was a primary feature in the testimony of each of the Asian bishops who addressed the House of Bishops. We heard from the Bishops of Taiwan, Japan, Korea and the Philippines. Each was passionate about ministry in their context. And each diocese was doing significant work with what I think we would consider limited resources. It was humbling to hear about the risks that these churches were taking to serve the poor and advocate for justice, in many cases being lone voices for compassion.

The most Christian nation in Asia is South Korea, with a Christian population approaching 30%. In a dialogue between the Bishop of Korea and the Bishop of Japan, it was said by both that the reason for Korea’s success in evangelism is that the Korean Church stood as voice against war during a period when the Japanese Church collaborated with the aggression of its government. The Korean Church thereby expressed a willingness to “walk the talk” about peace and earned considerable respect among the Korean people. The Japanese Church has since repented of its collaboration with the Japanese war effort and has publicly apologized to Korea and others. But the damage to its image has been done, and it continues to struggle.

Ten bishops, including me, also visited the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (the Japanese Holy Catholic Church) following the House of Bishops’ meeting. It was a whirlwind visit, riding the bullet train, and seeing the church in three dioceses. The first stop on our visit was the Peace Memorial in Hiroshima (which means “wide island” – central Hiroshima sits on an island in a river). The Peace Memorial is a stunning museum in the style of the Civil Rights Museum and the Holocaust Museum. It is deeply affecting. The museum makes clear the costs of war on all sides, and the continuing costs to the nation of Japan in terms of guilt, shame and leukemia.

A building that survived the blast at the Peace Memorial in Hiroshima
A building that survived the blast at the Peace Memorial in Hiroshima

Viewing the museum made my spirit sore, and I think there is no conclusion other than that death on such a scale, while perhaps a military necessity in some minds, is unjustifiable both humanly and religiously. We will all be judged for the taking of life on such a scale. Along with the church in Japan, we can only ask God to forgive us.

The west is not Asia, and our values here will continue to be connected with our Christian inheritance. Yet, there are many things we can learn from our Asian brothers and sisters. One is that witness doesn’t depend on numbers. We can have our say and make a difference even if there are very few of us. And we can support our churches to do God’s work even with slim resources. The issue isn’t size – it’s passion. If we are devoted to the cause of Christ, we can make a difference.

Visiting St. Andrew's, Kiyosato (Photo by ENS/Mary Frances Schjonberg
Visiting St. Andrew’s, Kiyosato (Photo by ENS/Mary Frances Schjonberg

Ministry isn’t meant to serve only Christians or those who might become Christian. Evangelism is part of our work, but ministry is to be offered to all God’s children. The value of that ministry isn’t measured by the credit the church gets (or doesn’t get), but by the well-being of God’s people.

The church needs to be a voice for compassion and peace – because that’s who we are, that’s our identity. And when we have failed to serve as voices for peace and compassion, then we need to repent. There is no reconciliation without repentance.

By the end of our time in Taiwan, I felt – strangely – at home. Despite a complete inability to communicate in Chinese, despite dependence on cabbies and tour guides, despite the pervasive Buddhist culture, the Episcopalians I met were, well… Episcopalians. Their worship and their ministries felt very much like mine. And their aspirations and hopes are of the sort that we share. That they minister so passionately with far fewer resources than we have is inspiring and encouraging. I am hopeful that such inspiration will help us do the ministry that we are called here to do.

Launched today: video series on “Who We Are as the Episcopal Church”

Join Bishop Stephen T. Lane for the next seven weeks as he grapples with questions around who we are as the Episcopal Church. Today he introduces the series and begins to answer the question. Look for a new video each Wednesday.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/hf9yyglVUj4]

Click here for the text version.