Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Gospel Leadership

Today is the feast of Pentecost, the day Christians traditionally celebrate as the birth of the church, i.e., the community that seeks to embody and continue the transforming mission of Jesus. Leadership is essential for such a community. Yet what type of leadership are we talking about? Theologian Paul Collins addresses this question in his 2000 book Upon This Rock: The Popes and Their Changing Role. Following is an excerpt that examines the New Testament model of leadership.

There is a profound sense in which the New Testament presents Peter as the fundamental paradigm for later popes. Through his personality and experience, the New Testament spells out unequivocally the model of leadership that is appropriate for the Christian community.

In Matthew's gospel Jesus contrasts the exercise of secular power with the kind of authority that must be found in the church. The church is a unique institution and the way it operates must reflect this. In the Christian understanding the co-relative of authority and power is humble service: "But Jesus called [the disciples] to him and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'" [Matthew 20:25-28]

Here Jesus presents a stark contrast between the secular exercise of tyrannical power through force and the Christian emphasis on slave-like service. Jesus models this himself when he washes his disciples' feet at the last supper (John 13:3-11). It is ironic that, once again, it is Peter who, in his embarrassment, misunderstands Jesus' action, and protests, "You will never wash my feet." Jesus responds bluntly: "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me."

In Matthew's gospel Jesus also stresses that leadership is not about the perks and symbols of office. He specifically accused the religious leaders of his day of making "their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher and you are all students. And call no one your father . . . Nor are you to be called instructors . . . The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted." [Matthew 23:5-12]

Here the emphasis is on the contrast between the attitude and titles adopted by the religious establishment who have rejected Matthew's community of Christians as "heretics," and the humility required of the leaders of the community by the teaching of Jesus. The clear implication here is that some Christians are already abrogating to themselves titles such as "rabbi," "father" and "instructor" that are totally alien to the followers of Christ. It is texts like these that the strong sense of equality operative in the early Christian communities emerges: titles and distinctions of rank were anathema and there was a willingness to act against them. In this context the person who led the church was both disciple and servant.

. . . [I]t is . . . clear that even in New Testament times Christians did not achieve their own ideals, and that power, politics, clericalism and manipulation were part of church life. The attainment of humility will always be a struggle. This is precisely why Matthew emphasizes the failures of Peter as the primal leader of the New Testament church.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Paul Collins and Marilyn Hatton
In the Garden of Spirituality – Paul Collins
Thoughts on Authority and Fidelity
Genuine Authority
Authentic Catholicism: The Antidote to Clericalism
Quote of the Day – November 12, 2010
Rita Larivee on Being "Authorized by Baptism"
It's Time We Evolved Beyond Theological Imperialism
Jesus: A Uniquely Liberated Man
The Real Crisis
Responding to Cardinal Pell
Casanova-inspired Reflections on Papal Power – at 30,000 ft.
Beyond Papalism
Robert McClory's "Prophetic Work"
Here Comes Everybody!

Related Off-site Links:
Gay Marriage, Bishops and the Crisis of LeadershipNational Catholic Reporter (July 5, 2011).
Father Doesn't Know Best – Maureen Dowd (New York Times, May 22, 2012).
The Call of the Baptized: Be the Church, Live the Mission – Paul Lakeland (The Progressive Catholic Voice, September 19, 2010).
Creating a Liberating Church (Part 1) – Rosemary Radford Ruether (The Progressive Catholic Voice, July 15, 2010).
Creating a Liberating Church (Part 2) – Rosemary Radford Ruether (The Progressive Catholic Voice, July 19, 2010).
Creating a Liberating Church (Part 3) – Rosemary Radford Ruether (The Progressive Catholic Voice, July 28, 2010).

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The End of the World As We Know It . . .

. . . the Beginning As We Live It

This was the theme of In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre's 38th Annual MayDay Parade in Minneapolis.

Given that I was in Australia for the last week of April and the first week of May (see here, here and here), I was resigned to the fact that I would miss this year's parade. This was particularly disappointing as I'd missed last year's parade due to the filming of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN's series of "video vignettes." Yet due to weather conditions, this year's parade was postponed to May 13, the Sunday after I returned to Minnesota!

Left: With my friends Brian and Tim on the morning of Sunday, May 13, 2012.

I appreciate and enjoy the Mayday Parade as I always find it an inspiring and hope-filled event. Indeed, in many ways I see it as a spiritual event. For instance, the parade always tells a story, one that depicts a journey from unknowing, chaos and destruction to integration, community and enlightenment. Spirituality, at its heart, is about transformation. And so journeys like this and their creative retelling are very much expressions of spirituality; are very much living, interactive sacred texts.

About this year's parade theme the MayDay Festival guidebook notes:

This year we celebrate the local and international groundswell of people turning away from entanglement with exploitive systems towards healthy communities with sustainable visions of the future. There is no one right way to do this – transition involves difficult and honest discussions, inner soulful wrestling, outward action, many ideas and many hands, and ultimately, the unleashing of much joy and abiding love.

This "unleashing of much joy and abiding love" was evident on the streets of South Minneapolis on May 13. I'm so glad I had the chance to witness it – and to document it in the photos that accompany this post. As in previous years, I spent time before the parade began at its staging area, capturing some wonderful images of people – young and old – as they prepared to be part of what's become a world-famous event.

Why puppets and masks? An excerpt from this year's MayDay Festival guide explains:

Puppetry's power lies in the act of transformation – of bringing something inanimate to life. This act in itself speaks to our lives, which rise and fall and rise again. As we share this act of building and performing, we find that art brings people together. It creates and expands community.

Following are images of the parade, accompanied by excerpts from the parade guide. Enjoy!

Scene 1: Consider This

Connected by the Energy Pipeline, yet isolated, ordinary people just like you, use objects and services derived from fossil fuels. . . . Running about the pipeline are energy gremlins with their wall socket faces and pronged tails, making sure that everyone stays plugged in.

The Energy Pipeline pierces the heart of Mother Earth. Our habits of energy consumption drain her resources and deplete her lifeforce, bleeding her dry. When we contribute to her suffering, we create our own suffering because we too are part of the earth.

Scene 2: Break the Spell

Our wild Deer Hearts guide us to a new dawn, urging us to break and fall awake. They divine a way to rebirth ourselves. They whirl in prayer, revolving around an open heart, just as the earth revolves around the sun. Their limbs branch out to receive the truth and love of the cosmos, yet are firmly rooted in relation to the earth. . . . The first people to wake up and to break through become Deer Spirits to purify and protect the path. They give out a new form of energy and currency, based on unconditional giving and loving.

The Earth's Heart is OURS. Enter the sleeping heart. Much of our time is spent trapped in cars, on the computer, or in a cubicle. We are tired and damaged, and we live in a world that is tired and damaged. We have passed a natural balance, and very little stands between us and destruction.

We have lost touch with our wild nature, our center of creativity, energy and life. Some ancestors believed the heart to be the center of intelligence, the universe, and the sun. We can use our hearts to bring change and follow our intuition into our wild, loving and sacred center. This heart cannot break; earth's wild heart is aware, holding all things together. Shake it! Awaken!

Chalchiutlicue, the water goddess, reigned in the Fourth Sun Era with kindness to humans. The other gods became jealous and accused Chalchiutlicue of faking her compassion. Tears flowed from the eyes of Chalchiuhlicue, causing a great flood that threatened the existence of the human race. In a genuine act of compassion, Chalchiutlicue turned humans into fish to save them. As a sign of the covenant, on the bank of the river, grew a prickly pear cactus laden with fruit, symbolizing the human heart.

Genuine compassion is the source of change and comes only with sacrifice of the ego. When a transition happens in one's innermost being, it becomes visible: a sweet, vital fruit of generosity. Transition, now.

Scene 3: Make Do

The resourceful beaver works diligently to create an environment where it and its fellow creatures are able to flourish. Because they live cooperatively, these beavers are sharing tools.

Sloths on bicycles! Sloths are extremely slow-moving beasts. They are so slow that algae grows in their fur. Our ability and desire to move quickly make it hard for us to participate in the slower, subtler things around us. The brigade of sloth cyclists is declaring: "Take your time! Make the time!"

Scene 4: Surround of Light

Four horses – White, Red, Yellow and Black – gather from the four directions – North, South, East and West – to bring the medicine of unity and the prophetic message of The Forest.

The Forest has a memory recorded in rings of ancient growth. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the largest mass execution in American history, the hanging of 38 Dakota men in Mankato, MN, and the subsequent removal of Dakota people from the state of Minnesota. In commemoration, 38 trees reach ever up, their roots planted forever into the memory of our earth to honor the wisdom and the people that continue to grow.

The Sun calls us to move, to grow, to reach upward for what is possible. It is constant and seemingly eternal as we move in our inextricable cycles around it. Nowhere is it more revelatory than in Spring when life, long dormant, reaches upward.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
"Uproar!" on the Streets of Minneapolis (Part 1)
"Uproar!" on the Streets of Minneapolis (Part 2)
Getting Started – MayDay Parade 2009 (Part 1).
Celebrating Our Common Treasury – MayDay Parade 2009 (Part 2).
May Day and a "New Bridge" – Mayday Parade (2008).
May Day 2007
The Time is Now . . . – MayDay Parade (2006).

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Something to Think About . . .

He who lives in harmony with himself
lives in harmony with the universe.

Image: Photographer unknown.


MPIRG and members of the Duluth community in northern Minnesota show what marriage and family are all about . . .

Notes MPIRG on its website:

On November 6, Minnesotans will be asked to vote on two proposed amendments to our state's Constitution. Both amendments are divisive and unnecessary. Minnesota has never in its history amended the Constitution to take away people's basic democratic and human rights. This is not the Minnesota we want. We already have laws that ensure the integrity of our elections and marriage should not be used to divide our communities. Changing the Constitution is too radical of a step. We need to vote NO and protect its integrity.

Stay tuned for more as our campaign to defeat these amendments ramps up. In the meantime, check out the organized opposition efforts, of which we are a part, at these websites:

Voter ID: Our Vote, Our Future
The Anti-Marriage Amendment: Minnesotans United For All Families

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
From Northern Minnesota, Two Excellent Rebuttals to the "Convoluted Logic" of the Bishops' Pro-Amendment Argument
Dutch Boy Sings About His Two Fathers
In Minnesota, Catholics Sing Their Support for Marriage Equality

Recommended Off-site Links:
SurveyUSA Poll Points to First Time Majority of Minnesotans Support Marriage EqualityTheColu.mn (May 14, 2012).
Persuasion and the Gay Generation Gap – Conor Friedersdorf (The Atlantic, May 18, 2012).
U.S. Acceptance of Same-Sex Couples is the New NormalGallup.com (May 14, 2012).
The Gay Marriage Paradox: As Acceptance Rises, So Do Legal Barriers – Linda Feldmann (Christian Science Monitor via MinnPost, May 18, 2012).

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Quote of the Day

. . . Perhaps the [hierarchy of the] Catholic Church has outlived its usefulness in this world if it has sunk so low to be willing to let hungry people starve and sick people die as a way to throw a temper tantrum over contraception that prevents unwanted pregnancies and therefore prevents abortion. I have never seen an organization that is so willing to put others in harm’s way in order to advance their agenda. Oh wait, I have. The Tea Party. And coincidentally, I’m sure, the Tea Party also thinks we should let the poor starve and let the sick die. And what’s up with this $2.9 billion that the Church has gleefully been collecting from the government? As it turns out, that money comprised 62% of the total revenue of the Church and they paid nothing in taxes on that revenue. So not only did the Catholic Church collect almost $3 billion of taxpayer dollars, they didn’t have to pay a cent in taxes. And that taxpayer money didn’t just come from practicing American Catholics. It came from every hard working American in the nation.

Just this funding alone makes me wonder if the Catholic Church could properly operate without it. It just seems to me that the Catholic Church is whining over something that they really have no business whining about. If you’re going to take federal cash, you should accept federal laws, especially when those laws do not directly apply to you and only apply to the insurance companies that cover your employees. Not a dime of the Church’s (or the government’s) money will have to go toward covering contraception. Insurance companies are required to now offer contraception to employees of religious institutions free of charge. In other words, there is no violation of religious freedom in this case. So this isn’t really about religious liberty as much as it is about women having access to contraception. . . .

– Stephen D. Foster Jr.

Related Off-site Links:
Catholics Caught Between Bishops, Obama’s Birth Control Mandate – Lisa Miller (The Washington Post, May 24, 2012).
Did the Catholic Organizations Have to Sue Over the Health Care Mandate? – E.J. Dionne Jr. (The Washington Post via The Progressive Catholic Voice, May 22, 2012).
The Catholic Bishops Behind the War on Women – Laura Bassett (The Huffington Post, January 1, 2012).
43 Catholic Dioceses, Groups Sue to Stop HHS Contraception Mandate – Nancy Frazier O'Brien (National Catholic Reporter, May 21, 2012).
A Week of Catholic Turmoil: Signs of Hope Ahead? – Stephanie Niedringhaus (Network, May 25, 2012).

Monday, May 21, 2012

Out and About - Spring 2012 (Part 1)

I cannot cause light. The most I can do
is put myself in the path of its beam.

– Annie Dillard

I'm thinking this is the challenge for all who seek to walk the way of Jesus: to be willing embodiments of God's light, of God's spirit of compassion, clarity and justice; to be, in other words, vessels filled with transforming energy not our own, yet which we're called to channel to the world through our loving actions of body, speech and mind.

This is what I've come to believe, at least. And from what I can gather, it's what all the great spiritual traditions invite us to do. I try to live this challenge as a gay man, true to the gift of my sexuality, within the Roman Catholic faith tradition. This blog is very much a journal, a testimony, to that endeavor.

Recently I was at an event where someone asked me how I can "stay in the church." This person had recently left her parish, hurt and grief-stricken by the Catholic hierarchy's support of the "marriage amendment," the upcoming November 6 ballot initiative that will ask Minnesotans to vote on whether or not the state constitution should be amended so as to define marriage as "solely between one man and one woman." The thing is, civil marriage for same-sex couples is already banned in Minnesota. Accordingly, this amendment seems to many to be especially mean-spirited and hurtful to gay couples and families already treated as second-class citizens.

As my readers would know, I'm very much involved in the efforts to spread the message that Catholics can in good conscience support marriage equality and vote 'no' on the proposed "marriage amendment." I engage in such efforts primarily as executive coordinator of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN (C4ME-MN), an initiative of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM). I'm also on the board of Minnesotans United for All Families, a broad coalition of organizations and community, faith and business leaders, dedicated to defeating the amendment.

I'm grateful to be working with the many dedicated and inspiring folks who comprise C4ME-MN. Indeed, I believe that it's because I'm working on a daily basis with fellow Catholics dedicated to advocating marriage equality that I'm not discouraged and driven from the church by the actions of the hierarchy. I'm surrounded by supportive and inspiring people who keep me energized and hopeful, and who remind me that we are the church. It saddens me that there are increasing numbers of Catholics who feel so hurt and betrayed by the actions of the hierarchy, including, in many cases, of their own parish priests, that they no longer feel as if they belong. So many Catholics, I'm discovering, are feeling this way; are feeling excluded, isolated and bereft. I'm thankful that part of C4ME-MN work is organizing events and actions that bring these folks together and give them a sense of inclusion, purpose and hope.

One such event was the series of Lenten prayer vigils outside the chancery of the St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese. It concluded on Palm Sunday (right), but another vigil has commenced on a weekly basis inside the St. Paul Cathedral – it's a weekly prayer vigil in support of all Minnesota families. Then there was the recent "Come Out and Sing Out to Defeat the Marriage Amendment" event, one that I unfortunately missed, owing to the fact that I was in Australia for two weeks. And let's not forget the "Of Light and Hope" worship service in March, last Sunday's vigil in St. Cloud, the ongoing house gatherings of Catholics, and the upcoming Catholic conversations training.

It's certainly been an eventful and energizing spring! In fact, it can all get rather overwhelming, which is why I'm so grateful for the love and support I receive from my friends, many of whom are featured in the following photos, and the sense of renewal and hope I experience by the beauty of the natural world around my South Minneapolis home – beauty that is also highlighted in many of the following photos.


Above: "Of Light and Hope," a multi-faith community worship service that took place at Mount Zion Temple, St. Paul, on Thursday, March 29, 2012, and served to connect people of faith in their efforts to defeat the 'marriage amendment.' Fr. John Brandes and I represented Catholics opposed to the amendment during the candle-lighting ritual.

Right: Standing with friends (from left) Doug, Dawn and Lynn.

Above: Catholics for marriage equality at the "Of Light and Hope" worship service. From right: Paul, Brent, Paula and Lisa. You may recall that Brent and Lisa feature in the series of "video vignettes" entitled Catholics for Marriage Equality. Also worth checking out is Lisa's April 2 Sensus Fidelium article about New Ways Ministry's Seventh National Symposium on Catholicism and Homosexuality, which she attended in March.

Left: With my friend and house-mate Tim at the March 30 Friday Lenten Fish Fry at St. Albert the Great Catholic Church in South Minneapolis.

Above: Enjoying a quiet moment and a good cup of tea! My friend Susan (left) took this photo. She always manages to make me look half-way decent!


Right: Easter Sunday brunch with my friends Rick and Brian. My friend and housemate Tim took this photo.

Above: After brunch on Easter Sunday, Tim and I went for a walk along Minnehaha Creek, which is close to where we live in South Minneapolis. I took this great shot of Tim, while he took the one of me that opens this post. As you can see, the trees along the creek are quite something!

Above: Easter Sunday lunch with friends (from left) Kathleen, Sue Ann, Ken, Carol, Oscar, Paul, Carrie and Cass.

Above: Easter Sunday dinner with friends (from left) Fred, Madeline, Kim, Curtis, Liana, Mike, Noelle, Phil and John. Yes, I ate very well on Easter Sunday! So much so that one friend commented on Facebook: "I'm stuffed just looking at all the food you ate today. But I didn't have a tree-climbing adventure, either."

Right: Eddie!

Above and below: On the afternoon of Wednesday, April 11, 2012, my friend Brian and I enjoyed a walk along Minnehaha Creek.

Above: In April, my friend Ahmed debuted his drag queen persona Aaliyah at an event in Minneapolis. It was a great night!

Left: With Aaliyah and Phil.

Above: Friends Liana and Curtis.

Right: My friend and house-mate Tim. I took this photo after we came back from seeing Time Stands Still at the Guthrie Theater.

NEXT: Part 2

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
Out and About – Winter 2012