Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Reflections on Race

On the occasion of Barry Moser’s keynote address at the Glen Workshop

St. John’s College, Santa Fe, New Mexico, August 1, 2016

I offer the following reflections as one footnote to Barry Moser’s moving and insightful presentation at the 2016 Glen Workshop. These are some things we might think about. The reflections are stated briefly and without much elaboration, and they are tentative, so I welcome your feedback and discussion.
The main thesis is that, in some circumstances, racism is natural and to be expected, but people of faith are obliged both to work to remedy those circumstances and to cultivate in ourselves, our children, and our communities a second nature in which our responses are redeemed and transformed toward love.

All humans, when we feel threatened, distinguish friend from foe, us from them. When not threatened, we may not draw such a distinction. That we make this distinction when feeling threatened is hardwired. Collies herd. Retrievers fetch. Humans distinguish friend from foe. How we make the distinction is learned during childhood and/or is circumstantial, influenced by features of the particular situation.
Hundreds of thousands of years of human evolution have rewarded (“selected for”) tendencies for in-group preference and in-group loyalty.
            The typical human group for hundreds of thousands of years was what is sometimes called a “hunter-gatherer group” or “small band foraging society,” composed normally of 5 to 7 families of 5 to 7 individuals each, or about 25-50 people.
During the late Pleistocene era, before the current Holocene era, radical climate shifts and associated fluctuations in food scarcity led to the flourishing and then diminishing of human populations. Our human ancestors who survived the bad times were the ones who stuck together and looked out for each other in their small groups. Others mostly died off.
Jon Haidt (The Righteous Mind, 2012) proposes this thought experiment: If, tomorrow, 90% of the world’s food supply vanished, who would make it? It would be individuals in cohesive, cooperating groups, not strong individuals who bully or try to survive by force.
“Race” is a common way people distinguish friend from foe. Race categories, like those on the U.S. Census, and the way individuals make their own classifications by race, are best understood as involving reference to a combination of phenotype (outward appearance) and ethnicity (cultural ways).
When someone says, “race is not biological,” they mean that there are no genetic markers for race. Of course phenotype is based on genotype. For instance, skin color, hair texture, nose shape, and eye shape are results of complex genetic codes within human DNA, and these are inherited. But socially determined race categories do not coincide with any interconnected markers for these physical traits. You can’t examine DNA to determine race. Race is not genetic.
Here’s the idea: If we categorized humans into racial groups, then took objective measurements on those four physical traits of every individual in each group, and then calculated average measurements for each racial group, the differences between individuals within the race groups on the four traits would be larger than the differences between the average measurements for each group. For instance, there is more variation of skin color within socially agreed upon racial groups than there is between the average skin colors of the different groups.
Though race is not biological, it is cultural. This means two things. First, it means that in different cultures, people use different race categories for understanding human differences, based on the histories of their own cultures. For instance, the race category scheme symbolized by the phrase “red, yellow, black, and white” is not universal. It wouldn’t have made sense in Jesus’ day of what they took to be the crucial difference between Jews and Samaritans, or what in the Middle East today are the differences between Jews, Arabs, and Persians.
Second, the statement that race is cultural means that in making race distinctions people have in mind not only outward appearance but also differences in social customs and family ways, though the generalizations we make about the customs and ways of different races almost always have exceptions.
In the Christian idiom and metaphor scheme, our nature as “fallen” puts us in need of redemption and the continual working of God in our lives.
Racism, according to this understanding, is sinful but is not caused by exceptional ignorance or depravity. It is a product of the human evolution of motivational impulses in conditions when we feel threatened.  That is, racism is a natural condition that God calls us to transform.
Cross-racial friendships and associations help cultivate a sense of “us” across socially specified race groups. Emphasizing differences and diversity is not as successful for cultivating “us” as is emphasizing shared purposes independently of race. This is part of loving our neighbors as ourselves.
But Jesus also teaches us to remedy the conditions in which people are and feel threatened. As followers of Christ, we do wrong when we either foster threatening conditions or passively benefit from them, for instance, when we either promote racial segregation or take advantage of race-based privilege in making the best life for our children that we can (when our privilege means others are denied privilege). For many whites, not being racist is easy. Facing up to white privilege is hard.
The beloved community is not simply color-blind. Not being an active racist is not enough. We have to cultivate a second nature, one redeemed and transformed, which some people would call “anti-racism.” How can one be an anti-racist? The beloved community is one in which we both remedy the conditions in which people feel threatened and cultivate love and shared purpose across social and ethnic divisions.  Only then do we love our neighbors as our selves.

Friday, July 3, 2015

July 3 - Blogging GC'15

A statement of dissent, and a cordial response 

A minority report has been filed by 18 bishops in the House of Bishops. It expresses dissent from the actions taken to make fully shared marriage rites available (A054) and to change the marriage canon to do that (A036). However, it also expresses the intention of the endorsers to remain loyal to The Episcopal Church.

Bishops' "Minority Report" on changes to the marriage canon (I.18)

In response, the House of Bishops affirmed the relationships among bishops who disagree on these matters.

"Mind of the House" response to that Minority Report

Here is a link to ENS stories on what has been happening at GC'15:

Episcopal News Service stories on the 78th General Convention

We are nearly done, after what is likely to be a long day today. Please continue to send up your prayers.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

July 2 - Blogging GC'15

Marriage Work is Complete

The work on marriage at GC'15 is now complete, as of late yesterday afternoon.

All parts of the three-part bundle of marriage resolutions were passed, with slight amendments, by the House of Bishops, with the House of Deputies concurring without further amendment. Here are the three resolutions in their final form:
  1. A037 - Continue the Work of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage
  2. A054 - Adopt Resources and Rites from "Liturgical Resources I: I will bless you and you will be a blessing, Revised and Expanded 2015
  3. A036 - Amend Canon I.18 Marriage
I summarized the effect of these three resolutions on June 25, and I'll be even more brief here:

The blessings rite for same-sex couples authorized at GC'12 is authorized for another three years, and two new marriage rites are authorized for fully shared use, so that different-sex and same-sex couples can use the same marriage rites. Diocesan bishops retain authority to permit or forbid use of those rites in their dioceses, but if they forbid use of the marriage rites, they must allow their use by the couple and/or their priest in a neighboring diocese. Furthermore, no one will be required to perform these rites in any specific case. The marriage canon, Canon I.18, has been changed so that it is consistent with same-sex marriage. Finally, the marriage task force will continue. Some members will serve again for continuity, but a few total seats will be added so that a greater representation of the spectrum of understandings of marriage in our Church can be incorporated.

The votes taken by the House of Deputies were taken by Orders (explained below) yesterday, as follows -- note that the votes represented here count deputations (clergy & lay), not individual deputies:

Vote on A054: Liturgies

Vote on A036: Canon

Vote sheet for DSO on A036

In a vote by Orders, every deputy must sign their name by their vote, and these are a matter of record. A motion must pass both in a majority of clergy deputations and in a majority of lay deputations -- but to pass in a clergy or lay deputation, 3 of the 4 deputies must vote in favor. So calling for a vote by Orders in effect makes it harder for a motion to pass.

You can see from the votes, however, that both A054 and A036 passed by large margins.

Finally, here are some other resources for learning about the new marriage situation in The Episcopal Church.

DSO videos of reflections by Bishop Breidenthal

Episcopal News Service story

House of Deputies News story

Associated Press news note

Summary of SCOTUS decision in Center Aisle

We have two more "legislative days" remaining. We are so grateful for your prayers thus far. Please continue to pray for us.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

July 1 -- Blogging GC'15

Updates at bottom 

A Note about Focus

There are many things going on during this 78th General Convention that I am not mentioning. I am focusing almost exclusively on the legislative activity related to marriage, with reflections on the election of our next Presiding Bishop here

Busy Day Ahead

Yesterday we had a bit of a mess up, when it became clear that the structure resolutions and the following items on the calendar for consideration were not available to Spanish-speaking deputies in translation. So we recessed earlier than planned.

Today therefore we are scheduled to deal with three major items of business:
  1. 11:15 a.m. Mountain Time: structure (meaning institutional governance structures), 
  2. 2:15 p.m. Mountain Time: budget (a presentation, not the vote), and 
  3. 3:45 p.m. Mountain Time: marriage (A036 & A054)
Optimistically, this means we could get a lot done today.

For fun, I took some photos on my run this morning so that I could share them here.

Some Photos from a Run Up the Hill

I decided to run up to the Utah State Capitol and continued on up the hill to see what I could find.

An LDS building across from the Temple complex

The Utah state capitol building

A chapel in the park at the bottom of Canyon Creek Road

The view (1) from "The View" lookout, above the capitol

The view (2) from "The View" lookout, above the capitol

Another view of the state capitol building

A final view of the state capitol building

Especially today, please keep us in your prayers.


UPDATE:  The HoD is considering in order the following resolutions: A004, A006, D013, A133, A054, and A036. We have adopted the first two, so there are two more to go before we reach the two marriage resolutions (A054 & A036). We meet 2:15-3:15 for a join HoD + HoB session for the presentation of the proposed budget. Then, after a shorter than originally scheduled break, we begin again at 3:30 p.m. Mountain Time. It is impossible to know exactly when discussion of the marriage resolutions will begin. My hunch would be about 4:00 p.m., possibly a bit before or after that.

UPDATE 2: Both A054 and A036 passed in the House of Deputies, on votes by Orders. Details in the morning, on tomorrow morning's blog post.

July 1 quick note RE marriage resolutions -- Blogging GC'15

Remaining Marriage Resolutions: A036 & A054

It appears at this writing (5am July 1) that the discussion of the remaining marriage resolutions (A036 and A054) will be moved back.

The House of Deputies will resume the discussion of the structure resolutions at 11:30 a.m.

At 2:15 p.m. we will have the joint HoB & HoD session to receive the report of PB&F on the budget.

Then, possibly, the discussion of A036 and A054 scheduled for 11:30 a.m. will take place beginning at 3:45 p.m. (Mountain Time).

I will post updates here when they are available.


UPDATE 7:45 a.m.:
Here is a tweet from HoD News / @DeputyNews

"HoD today: Finish yesterday's structure debate in 11:15 am session, joint budget session at 2:15 pm, marriage in 3:45 pm session. "

Reminder: This is all Mountain Time. So 3:45 p.m. in UT is 5:45 p.m. in OH.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

July 30 - Blogging GC'15

Marriage Resolutions 

Yesterday the House of Deputies passed Resolution A037, to continue, expand, and make more representative the Task Force on the Study of Marriage.

This action concurred with the earlier adoption by the House of Bishops, which passed A037 from the marriage committee unamended.

So that first part of the three-part bundle of marriage resolutions is accomplished.

The other two parts have come from the House of Bishops to the marriage committee and this morning were approved for submission to the House of Deputies.

The House of Bishops passed slightly amended versions of Resolutions A036 and A054:
  • A036 -- to amend the marriage canon, I.18, to make it gender-neutral, and 
  • A054 -- to extend approval of the GC'12 same-sex unions blessing liturgy and to approve for "trial use" the same-sex marriage liturgies, toward Prayer Book revision. 
The amendment to A036 was simply a clarification of language.

There were two amendments to A054 in the House of Bishops: (i) dropping from trial use the same-sex marriage liturgy based on the 1928 BCP, and (ii) specifying the provision for the authorization and oversight of diocesan bishops in the use of the two marriage liturgies approved for trial use.

Those two liturgies are a marriage rite based on the language approved at GC'12 for the blessings rite, but adding a section for marriage, and a marriage rite based on the 1979 BCP marriage rite. Both would be gender-neutral, so either could be used with proper authorizations by different-sex and same-sex couples equally.

The specification added by the House of Bishops concerning episcopal authority reads as follows:

"Bishops exercising ecclesiastical authority or, where appropriate, ecclesiastical supervision will make provision for all couples asking to be married in this Church to have access to these liturgies. Trial use is only available under the direction and with the permission of the Diocesan Bishop...."

This means that diocesan bishops have the prerogative whether to authorize trial use of the liturgies, whether for different-sex or same-sex couples, and if they do not authorize this use, they must "make provision" for the liturgies to be available for use by couples.

For instance, "provision" (in the quote above) could be made by allowing a couple and their priest go to a contiguous diocese where the diocesan bishop authorizes their use. This model of "provision" is currently being used by Bishop Ed Little in the Diocese of Northern Indiana for the blessings rite approved at GC'12.

A special order of business, with special rules for debate, is being worked out today for action by the House of Deputies on A036 and A054. The latest information I have is that this debate will begin tomorrow (Wednesday) morning at 11:00 a.m. (Mountain Time).


UPDATE: The special order for debate will begin at 11:30 rather than 11:00 a.m. (Mountain Time).

UPDATE #2:  Because the resolutions on structure were not translated into Spanish for this afternoon's discussion, after over an hour into our proceeding, discussion of them was postponed until translation could be completed. I am now informed that the marriage resolutions scheduled for 11:30 a.m. will be considered in the afternoon. 


How might this turn out?

The House of Deputies concurred with the House of Bishops on A037 yesterday, after two unsuccessful attempts to amend A037, by voice vote with a resounding majority. So I have every expectation that A036 and A054 will also pass, but we are likely to be called upon to vote by Orders -- a move designed to make passage more difficult.

For a resolution to be approved by a deputation, 50% + 1 must approve it. In a vote by Orders, that means that BOTH 3 of 4 clergy deputies AND 3 of 4 lay deputies must support the resolution.

The voice vote yesterday on A037 suggested that opposition on that one at least was confined to three or four pockets of deputies at various points in our large meeting hall. If that is any indication, we should be able to pass A036 and A054 in the morning session tomorrow.

Stay tuned!

If you want moment by moment progress, I suggest you follow @DeputyNews on Twitter, which is how I followed the floor debate in the House of Bishops yesterday on A036 and A054, though I was on the floor of the House of Deputies at the time.

House of Deputies Photos

Here are some images related to voting in the House of Deputies and also of three of our DSO deputies who have addressed the House:

The voting device with the ID card inserted

Electronic vote results are displayed this way to the House of Deputies.
Debby Stokes (DSO Deputation Chair) was elected by a landslide!

Debby Stokes

Laura Gentner

The Rev. Canon Scott Gunn

Here is what the House of Deputies (about 815 people) looks like.

From the side:

From the back:

Please continue to pray for this great (large) Episcopal Church sausage-making factory!

Monday, June 29, 2015

June 29 - Blogging GC'15

A sign, not a measure

It took me more than a day to quit hurting over the election of our next Presiding Bishop.

Maybe because I'm one of those egghead professor types, I often need to put things into words before my emotions can listen to reason. On my run up Canyon Creek Road this morning, it finally came to me.

A vote tally is usually a measure of voter preference, based on their assessment of the quality or shared values of the nominees or candidates. But the House of Bishops elected the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry on the first ballot, and by a striking, actually astonishing margin. Here is how the vote was represented to the House of Deputies:

Click on the photo for an enlarged image.

That took me by surprise. I had not expected such a unity among the bishops, let alone that early in the process -- especially given all the positive responses to Bishop Breidenthal's video introductions and his answers to questions during the lead up to the election.

It still hurts a little, a cut that has begun to heal. But several fellow deputies have told me, on elevators, in corridors, when they find out I'm from Southern Ohio, that they really like my bishop. And I'm assured the bishops feel the same way.

This vote was not a measure. It was a sign.

It was a sign of unity in opposition to racism in The Episcopal Church and in the United States and beyond. It was a sign that Bishop Curry is very highly regarded as one who can represent our Church to other Churches and other faiths and to the larger world, to help bring the good news of Christ -- God-with-us in breathing flesh and bone -- to hurting people and a troubled world.

Perhaps especially in our current moment, we need that. And the bishops knew it. And they said it straight out.

I embrace that sign and celebrate it. I see a way to rejoicing. And I am excited about what lies just ahead.

 See more reflections here: Center Aisle Issue #6.


The House of Bishops began late yesterday afternoon discussing the proposed changes to the marriage canon (A036) and the proposed trial liturgies (A054) but had to postpone further consideration until today. 

The House of Deputies will consider today the proposed extension of the work of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage (A037), along with its expansion to include a wider spectrum of understandings in our Church.

Panel on Defining Marriage

Last night Bishop Breidenthal and five others were part of a very interesting panel discussion on marriage. The event was sponsored by The Living Church (see also this post-panel reflection). The Living Church is a well known news and opinion magazine representing the more conservative voices in The Episcopal Church.

These were the questions put to the panelists (as best I could remember them when writing  notes):
  1. What is marriage?
  2. Is marriage a human institution or a divine gift?
  3. Are children a [mere] addendum to marriage or part of its very purpose?
  4. What is the social purpose of marriage?
  5. What is happening with sexual morality today, given the relatively high rates of [non-committed] pre-marital sex and [committed] non-marital cohabitation?
  6. What happens next to marriage, given social and church changes afoot -- Do we see marriage as part of the final perfection of creation?
Some panelists shared personal stories, and the discussion was especially collegial. It was another witness to the breadth of understandings of marriage in our Church, as well as to the special gifts Bishop Breidenthal and others offer to our conversations.

It was also a happy reminder about how cordially we can discuss our disagreements, within The Episcopal Church. We can celebrate the lives and witness of those with whom we do not agree.

Up Canyon Creek Road

I turn up onto Canyon Creek Road, gates keeping cars down in the neighborhood. I join the runners, and the walkers with their dogs. Cattle dogs in the dessert, lapdogs on leash, shepherds watching their leaders for the next sign. Cyclists pass us all, climbing up and swishing down. The paved road is faded, cracked, speckled by dulled white gravel points in gray tar. Ochre grooves in the speckled gray, red clay smudged by tires into pavement. Green leafy bushes and trees line the road along the creek. Bare canyon ridges surround us. Smell the dry air. Hear the creek. Roly polies move across the road, delicate armor over eyelash legs, solitary, but so many, a hoard scattered, alone. And cottonwood down lines the edge where a hummingbird comes to have a look. At me? At lavender and yellow flower blossoms on the weeds? At a swarm of tiny red ants on dropped candy? And the creek gulps and sloshes around rocks. And cuts a canyon from ages unto ages.