Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Writing Something

My blog needs updating. My girlfriend told me, and I know she's right, not that I received her right-ness with appropriate grace and gratitude.

So I do need to write something and maybe I'll write about writing. Specifically that we ought to all be doing more of it, since it's really suffering. I love all the great social media out there, and texting, and the other opportunities creeping up--opportunities to mangle the English language and send grammar to an early grave. Really I do.

But I had to give up Twitter, since 140 characters means writing "u" when you mean "you." And using numbers as words. I've tried it out when texting (since you only get 160 there). Doesn't really work for me.

I think we should all try our hands at formal writing, by which I mean writing that uses letters only. If you need to write about numbers over ten, then you can use numerals. But otherwise, letters. And complete sentences, though they can be fragments, if you know what you're doing. Seriously. Fragments are an appropriate way to indicate emphasis. Really. They are not not not an appropriate way to communicate generally in written discourse.

So that's what I think. I think we should all write more. Except for Ann Coulter and Jonah Goldberg. They should write less. Maybe just on Twitter.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Joy of Candidacy, Part Three

I am a candidate for ordained ministry again. It's an odd place to be, since I've been an ordained minister for nearly a decade.

But the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has declared itself open to receiving lesbian and gay candidates in Publicly Accountable, Lifelong, Mutual Same-gender relationships (PALMS) on its roster, so I am a candidate once again.

Which means going through candidacy again. For the third time.


The first two times weren't bad, really. I had a really terrific candidacy team in the Sierra-Pacific Synod (the northern halves of California and Nevada). They wanted me to be approved, even to the point of tacitly encouraging me to bend the truth in order to do so. And they were loving and kind when I stubbornly refused to play the "I'm in compliance right now (here in this office)" game. ("Now available from Hasbro! Hasbro, for all of your integrity-compromising needs.")

The second trip through candidacy was with the Extraordinary Candidacy Project, which accepted all of my ELCA paperwork (and kept copies of it all, which has turned out to be a Godsend). I also had to write an essay about how my sexuality would influence my ministry, which felt like one of those "you need to do something special for us so here it is" requirements. But I wrote it and I'm sure I'll come across it any time now and enjoy reading it again. Or laugh. Laughing is a distinct possibility.

ECP is now Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, and it will always be my primary home. Were it not for the pioneers of this movement, dozens of us would have been left out in the cold, like so many of our sisters and brothers in other denominations. I am proud to be "extraordinarily ordained," and grateful as hell to all those who worked so hard to pry open the doors to ministry.

The ELCA's doors are sort of open now, though I am not steeled for bureaucracy as I should be, having been sheltered by ECP-then-ELM all of these years. The institutional church is a whole different animal.

Case in point: Since it has been (just) over ten years since I was postponed by an ELCA candidacy committee, it appears that the Synod has shredded my paperwork. They can't find my file, and think it has been "disposed."

Ouch. Since I was postponed, I assumed that they would hold my file open. Or at least check in before chucking it.

First rule of interfacing with bureaucratic institutions: Never assume.

ELM, my one true love, has my paperwork. Most of it, anyway. They kept it in a fireproof vault, and have already sent a copy to my new Synod. I'm searching through old floppy disks for my approval essays. Have found two of the four. I think the other two are on the hard drive of the office computer at my internship site. A computer which has surely been discarded long ago.

So the search for hard copies commences.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Breaking News: Conference of Bushes to Decide Fate of Pines

For immediate release.

Chicago, IL, USA. The Conference of Bushes of the largest denomination of trees in the U.S. will meet this month in Chicago to weigh in on a procedure to receive pines to its Roster of Ordered Timbers.

The rules and procedures of Every Leaf Counts in America (ELCA) have long denied pine trees leadership roles, although the evergreens have been allowed to participate in the laitree. "We welcome pines to full participation in the life cycle of the ELCA," declares a letter from the Conference of Bushes written in 1993.

According to the earliest botanical manuscripts, especially the authoritative Historia Plantarum by Theophrastus, pines are considered needle-bearers rather than leaf-bearers. This distinction has long been understood as an unsurmountable barrier to coniferous service on the ELCA Roster of Ordained Timbers.

"The taxonomy is simple. The Botany is very clear about this," says Roy Oaken, president of Leaves Alone, a splinter group promoting leaf purity within the denomination. "Pines do not produce fruit. They are unable to make nuts. The Botany declares that we should 'be fruitful and multiply.' Pines do that, but not in a normal way, and we don't want our saplings learning about that or being told that it is okay. Our roots have grown a certain way for thousands of years, and we simply will not change our roots because the larger plant kingdom is suddenly more accepting of pines."

[Broadcasting note: In a departure from standard usage, the last two letters of Leaves are accented. Proper pronounciation of the organizational name is "Leave-us Alone."]

In August of 2009, members of the ELCA met in Assembly in Minnesota, one of the most densely forested states in the country, considered a sort of "tree Mecca." Two thirds of the trees at the Assembly were from the laitree, with the remaining voters perennials from the Roster of Ordered Timbers and the Conference of Bushes. The Conference of Bushes is made up of elected representatives of each of the sixty-five regional synods of the ELCA (including Sumac-Zion, a non-geographical synod). Bushes enjoy higher status in the denomination by virtue of being closer to the ground.

The Assembly voted to alter its traditional practice and allow certain parks and woods to accept pines as Ordered Timbers. No ecosystem that did not wish to have pines in leadership roles would be forced to do so. Still, for those evergreens which have been standing up against their exclusion from leadership, the decision was monumental.

"This is the day we've awaited for so long," said Ash Virginia Pine, director of Even the Leafless Matter (ELM), which rosters conifers unwilling to adopt counterfeit leaves in order to be accepted on the Roster of Ordered Timbers. "Our trees are just like the other trees serving in leadership positions across our forests. Science has shown that needles are, in fact, the same as leaves. They just look a little different and are a lot stronger. We actually consider our pines to be pretty special, and to have a particular role to play in the larger society. Think about it: across the country there are pines in millions of living rooms at Christmastime. The plant kingdom--indeed the whole world--is moving toward acceptance of pines. It is time for the ELCA to grow taller and accept our unique gifts."

Though the vote took place back in August, a plan to actually receive pines barred from the Roster has been slow to germinate. The plan will require layers of fertilizer from several constituencies across the denomination, including the Department of Vocation and Ecosystems, the Forest Council, and the Conference of Bushes.

The Conference of Bushes meets March 4-9 to look at a proposal for including ELM trees on the Roster of Ordered Timbers. ELM members are hopeful that the proposal will not include a rite of re-ordering, which would be tantamount to being torn up by the roots.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Rick Steves: Travel Guru, Lutheran, Pot Smoker

I love that one man is all three of those things. I love Rick Steves. And I love that he is brave enough to say what very few Lutherans would ever say outside of their homes, let alone to a Christian Century reporter--that he smokes pot.

I don't mean to suggest that smoking pot is something of which one ought be proud. Neither should one be proud to be a drinker or a television watcher. All of those drugs cause a lot of problems in our world. And the majority of users of alcohol, television, and yes, marijuana, are not harming themselves or others.

I don't smoke pot. I have, and I didn't like it. I quit when I was fifteen, to the chagrin of my stoner friends, who would occasionally try to saddle me with a contact high by blowing a "power hitter" in my face. Yeah, I probably should have found some different friends, but we moved to California just as I started high school, and the stoners are the most permeable membrane in high school culture. That's my 'scuse, and I'm stickin' with it.

I don't smoke pot, but I'm not all that concerned about most of the people who do. Alcohol creates many more problems in our lives, our families and our society, and I've never been able to figure out why it's legal and pot is not.

In fact, legalizing marijuana could actually solve a few problems, like the myriad issues of an illegal drug trade, the funding of dangerous cartels in Mexico and Central America, and the overcrowding of our jails. Let's concentrate on the drugs which are truly dangerous, and on those who abuse marijuana...oh, and alcohol, while we're at it.

Rick Steves said that out loud to Christian Century magazine. That is wicked, dude.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

First the Train Left the Station. Now It Has Left the Tracks

I'm so sad about Massachusetts; all I can do is write. Maybe this isn't the end (cue very psychedelic Doors song). Maybe we'll still get a health care bill that's worth a darn. But this morning I'm afraid that all that work has been in vain again, and I just can't believe that this desperately needed reform was derailed by:

1. Martha Coakely not knowing who Curt Shilling is. C'mon Boston--I know you love your teams, but c'mon!

2. A lawyer who once did a Cosmo centerfold posing as "Everyman."

3. The Washington bubble.

4. The ability of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh to convince people that they don't need something they really do need. And to further convince them that the message that they need it is some kind of plot to hurt them.

5. People who already have universal health care deciding that the rest of the country doesn't need it.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Is Grease Really the Word?

I was on call tonight, and didn't have to go in. Since it has been snowing (again!) all afternoon, that was a wonderful gift.
In an embarrassment of riches, VH1 is showing "Movies that rock!" and tonight's is Grease. I saw Grease three times in the movie theater--at a time when I could hardly afford to see a movie once. Even if it was a buck fifty.
Grease is a sausage movie. Don't think too hard about it, and don't look too close. Just enjoy it. Yes, Olivia Newton John is in high school. Yes, that car got itself built and painted. Yes, all of these improbable love stories, including the one between the greaser and the uber-naive Australian virgin, will work out. I love this movie, because it enables me to suspend disbelief and believe that it all works out in the end, no matter how crazy mucked up it is all the way through.
It also takes me back to a time when I thought everything was simple that way. Before I realized that I didn't admire Rizzo--I was crushing on her. And Stormy Ruecastle (with whom I took the bus every morning in fifth and seventh grade--Stormy was a year ahead of me in school and she and her best friend Rene were the coolest girls ever. On the planet, I mean.) It was a simpler time.
And Grease was the word, which really sums up the whole thing, don't you think?