Monday, September 12, 2011
Walter was a kind, grandfatherly-type of man who was also tough as nails. He had been Bishop of Iowa for many years (1972-1988) before he went to assist in Newark. I didn't know him then, but I suspect he was a natural in that mid-western, rural setting. There was nothing pretentious about Walter. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, visited the Diocese of Iowa in 1981, and Walter managed to convince him to pick up a piglet and pretend to give it a kiss.
Walter's trial was a watershed moment for the church. Conservatives were frustrated that they had not been able to get General Convention to stop the ordination of openly lesbian and gay people, so they decided to turn to the seldom used ecclesiastical court system. The previous charge of heresy against a bishop had been made in 1923. The court that convened ruled that there was no basis for a charge, that the "core doctrine" of the church was not in question, and so a trial never actually happened. The hearing in Wilmington, Delaware in 1996 was a dramatic moment, however. I was privileged to be present. Interestingly enough, it was the first time I met Bishop Jack McKelvey, then the new Bishop Suffragan of Newark, and Walter's chaplain for the trial.
To me, Walter was the epitome of the change that occurred in the Episcopal Church in the 1980's and 1990's. He was no trained theologian or biblical scholar (which is not to say he wasn't a very smart and shrewd man). He was no new-fangled, elitist liberal who was trying to make over the church into his own image. He was just an honest, everyday Christian and Episcopalian, who loved serving Jesus. And in that service he learned that inclusion trumps exclusion every time. He knew love and faith and hope when he saw it, and could not deny it based on a couple verses of scripture.
I loved Walter Righter and I am proud that John and I counted him and his faithful wife Nancy as friends. Rest in peace and rise in glory, Walter. Enjoy the feast at the welcome table.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
One of the things I did when I was on vacation in August was clean out my files at home. Thirty years of accumulated paper. Frightening. But I found some old jewels, of course, which was worth the time.
It is astonishing how quickly we’ve begun to accept terrorism as a permanent part of the international landscape. Astonishing because there is a fairly painless (and fairly obvious) alternative.
The greatest threat to civility—and ultimately to civilization—is an excess of certitude. The world is much menaced just now by people who think that the world and their duties in it are clear and simple. They are certain that they know what—who—created the universe and what this creator wants them to do to make our little speck in the universe perfect, even if extreme measures—even violence—are required.
America is currently awash in an unpleasant surplus of clanging, clashing certitudes. That is why there is a rhetorical bitterness absurdly disproportionate to our real differences. It has been well said that the spirit of liberty is the spirit of not being too sure you are right. One way to immunize ourselves against misplaced certitude is to contemplate—even to savor—the unfathomable strangeness of everything, including ourselves.
 From an article printed in a long defunct newsletter called New Options, the editor of which was Mark Satin, who presumably is the author of the piece.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
9/11 Vigil Vesper Service
All are welcome to join in solemn observance of the 10th anniversary of the violence of September 11, 2001.
Saturday, September 10th at 6 p.m.
Christ Episcopal Church
141 East Avenue, Rochester
Speakers: The Rev. Michael W. Hopkins, Church of St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene and Ms. Fatima Bawany, Islamic Center of Rochester.
"Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you." 2 Corinthians: 13:11