Nov 162018

A different perspective on failure and loss

failure

Sometimes we lose. And sometimes we feel like we have failed. But we are not losers or failures. We are human beings living the human experience.

We are not going to win every single time we set out to. Likewise, we will find ourselves behind schedule, reassigned, even fired sometimes. This does not mean that we failed. It means we have things to learn.

We have to change our perspective of loss. If we view loss as failure, then we allow it to control our feelings and perception of who we are. We are not failures. Rather, we are trying to live life and sometimes things happen.

I have suffered so much loss in my life. I have been there and felt like a tremendous failure. My desire is to change my own perspective of these events in my life. It is not easy. I know how difficult it is.

On some Sunday afternoons, as we prepare for Mass, I find myself staring out the door with an empty church behind me. I fight back tears as the feeling of failure hits me. My mind starts playing all the harsh words ever spoken about me and how I will never amount to anything.

I turn toward the altar, toward Jesus in the Tabernacle, and I start our celebration of the Mass. I join my prayers, the celebration of the Mass, with all those celebrating around the world. We offer prayers for those who ask for our prayers and for those who have no one to pray for them.

And then I feel better. I feel like I have connected to something bigger, something greater than me. Likewise, I feel a sense of belonging and love. No longer does it feel like failure. No, it feel like a great accomplishment!

This is the change in perspective I am talking about. Above all, we should realize that we can learn and grown even from our loss, our feeling of failure, and our brokenness. This is the most important thing we can do right now.

Come join us this Sunday to experience this love and sense of belonging!

Nov 102018

Time to stop the hate

stop the hate

Yesterday and today marked the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht in Germany. The Kristallnacht was the 24 hour period over November 9 and 10, 1938 when the Germans damaged or destroyed more than 1400 synagogues, prayer rooms, hospitals, cemeteries, and businesses owned by Jews. In addition, 91 people were killed and another 30,000 men, women and children were arrested and put into concentration camps. They did all this because of hate and very few tried to stop the hate.

We see a rise in our nation of many of the same forces that led to the Kristallnacht. The anger directed at people simple for their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or social status is the same dividing force that convinced otherwise good people in Germany to act against their conscience. As a result, some of those people would later commit suicide once they came to understand the horrors they had participated in.

This week, I got a taste of that hatred myself for simply exercising my First Amendment right to speak out about things I feel are wrong. As of this morning, there are 1,500 comments and counting on the video of the protest I attended. About 1,450 of those are hateful, demeaning, bigoted, and evil comments. And the majority of the people spewing that hate, have photos of them in church, sharing pics of Jesus, and telling people how Jesus in the center of their lives.

We as Christians are called to be better than this. Jesus called us to love one another and to help those most in need. In addition, our Christ stood up to the corrupt authorities in his day and even drove the money changers out of the temple! Moreover, the law and order religious leaders even trumped up charges against him and had him executed. Jesus was a man put through a sham trial with paid witnesses, not allowed to give a defense (he was smacked when he spoke up), and then sentenced to death despite the law saying they did not have the authority to execute him.

Sound familiar?

We see this same process play out every day. And we as Christian remain silent. Lately, many Christians cheer such abuses. They claim they are standing up for their country. Trying to take their country back. They don’t want people of other nationalities, races, faiths, genders and sexual orientations coming into their country. They don’t want them working in their businesses or living in their cities/neighborhoods.

This is not the message of the Gospel. It is a message that runs contrary to the Gospel. As a Bishop in the One Holy, catholic, and Apostolic Church, I refuse to remain silent in the face of this behavior. I MUST speak out against the hatred. It is my duty to correct those who claim to be Christian, yet live and preach messages that are anything but Christian. And I will.

I hope I can count on you to stand with me in this mission. Let us be a force for good in the world, in addition to letting our light overcome the darkness. Join me in sharing love in the face of hate.

Let us show the world a different way to to be Catholic and Christian!

Nov 022018

Change is scary

Change

I spoke several weeks ago about milestones. This week I want to speak about change in our lives. Change is scary and it brings with it a certain amount of apprehension. People who fear change also tend to lash out at others, become hateful, and even damaging to others.

I know because I too fear change. The realization that I will one day not be Presiding Bishop of the church sent me into a tailspin. I have been a Bishop longer than I have not now and out of that time, I have been the Presiding Bishop of a church 95% of the time. The thought that the ministry that has defined me for almost 20 years will come to a close is scary.

And like most people, I pushed for the changes to our Canon Laws that limited my time as Presiding Bishop. We call that voting against our own self-interest. Far too often, we create the situations we find ourselves in because we choose to do something others warn us will hurt us in the long run.

At the last Synod of the church, Bishop Borham (may he rest in peace) and several others tried to talk me out of the changes I proposed. They offered suggestions that would limit my position, offer for the removal of a bad Presiding Bishop, in an effort to keep me from putting in place term limits. However, I pushed for the changes. I was afraid of getting a bad person in the position and then having the church forever damaged by them.

You see, I allowed my fear of possible change to cause me to vote for something that would change my life too. And now, I am stuck with it. So now I must figure out what my life, what my ministry will be like once I am no longer the Presiding Bishop of the church.

Mind you, I can run one more time for the position at this coming Synod in 2019. But I could be voted out at the Synod. And that is the reason for my worry.

This coming Tuesday, November 6, we will all head to the polls to vote. As we do that, remember the lesson from my life and do not vote against your own self interest. Do not vote for a candidate because they sound good. Look at their record. Did they help the poor? Are they helping immigrants? Do they want to give healthcare to those who need it most? Or are they only saying they will?

Vote your conscience on Tuesday.

Oct 262018

Hate never wins

hate never wins

This past week has been a gut-wrenching week. We have experience something that many people in South America and other parts of the world live with everyday. A very sick individual mailed bombs to all the leaders of the Democratic party. We found out this morning that this person is full of hate, anger, in addition he has a very violent past.

It is easy to get angry at him and those who fueled his hatred and anger. We can rant and rave about how evil those people are and we can call for their heads on silver platters. But this is deeper than one act. It is more involved than one person.

We have allowed ourselves to become angry and hate-filled people. The infection that has been lurking under the surface in our nation for years is finally erupted and come to the surface. The solution is not to meet hate with hate, anger with anger, violence with violence. No, these tactics will not succeed.

Decades ago, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said, “Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love.” And he reminded us then that, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Where do we go from here?

We cannot hope to overcome the loud voices of hate, bigotry, anger, and violence by stooping to their level. We can only hope to overcome them by showing them love, peace, light, kindness, gentleness, and the example of the Christ. In other words, we can only hope to change the world by using the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.

When all is said and done, I still believe and will continue to believe to my dying day, that love is the answer. I have seen love transform even the most bigoted and hate-filled person. Saint Paul tells us that, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7. ESV.)

Another version of the above verse says that love never fails and I like that. Likewise, I believe that with my whole heart. We must return to the path of love before it is too late. Our own immortal souls depend on it. When we finally take our last breath, our God will not ask us how many fights we won, how many people we shunned, how many people we set straight. No, God our Father will ask us how many people we loved, how much we loved, how often did we show love to others.

In short, we will be judge on our life of love, or on our lack of love.

Oct 192018

Express your feelings

feelings

Growing up I was told by my father that real men do not cry, do not show emotion, and certainly do not talk about their feelings. It was ingrained in me all my life. I am here to tell you that this could not be further from true.

Showing emotion, talking about your feelings and, yes, even crying is hard. It is not easy to let those around you know how you feel. It is much easier to hide them. By hiding them, you make yourself less vulnerable. You do not open yourself up to heart-break or pain when others reject you or ignore your feelings.

I have been learning this past decade how to feel again. It has been a process that has been difficult and at times painful. Today, I opened up, made myself vulnerable to a group of people I trust and respect. I realize that it may result in pain, I may be disappointed in the responses, but I will have been honest and open about my feelings.

Too often we are told to ignore our feelings. We are told that to express them is to “wear them on our sleeves”. This is simply not the case! To express how we feel is the most authentic part of the human experience! It is what connects us more closely with those around us. And it is what makes those connections more real and personal.

So let those feelings out! Express your love and care for those around you. Share the pain and sorrow you feel. And celebrate the joy and excitement you experience. And yes, let the anger out in safe and controlled ways when you need to. Be human!

Because God loves you, emotions and all, and so do we!

Oct 122018

A life full of milestones

milestones

This year is my twentieth year of being a priest and a Bishop. I have not really celebrated this milestone. Rather, I have spent time reflecting on milestones in my life.

Yesterday we celebrated National Coming Out Day. One of the milestones in my life was the day I came out as a bisexual. I don’t speak about it much because some people see bisexuality as meaning that I want to have relations with anything and anyone that moves. They do not understand nor accept that I am happily married to a wonderful woman and have no interest in a relationship with anyone else.

We like to put people in neat little boxes and sexuality is anything but neat. It is fluid and can change throughout one’s life. This is something many people find hard to understand or accept. But we are called to accept all people just the way they are. Even if that means accepting their changing understanding of who they are!

That is one of the major things that upsets me as I look back on my life of milestones. Throughout my life I have worked to help others. Giving of myself until it hurts or even damages me. And so many times, my work is belittled, ignored, or denigrated. I have spent many years questioning why I continue to try. Each time I come back to the same conclusion.

I continue to try to help others, to be a force for good, and to change the world because I want to be proud of the person in the mirror. I want to be able to sleep at night knowing I did all I could to make the world a little better. There are so many people who need someone to love them, and I want to make sure there is someone there to love them!

At the end of my life, I hope and pray that I will be remembered as someone who loved too much, cared too much, and did too much to change the world. The opposite is not acceptable in my book.

Join me in being a positive force in our world. Let us make milestones of goodness part of our legacy!

Oct 052018

The past is a hard road to travel

past road

This week has been the most difficult week I have experienced in many years. It is the combination of dealing with my health issues, the burden of feeling like I have let others down, and the constant barrage of bad news. It has also been a week of confronting my past and issues I thought I had worked through already.

I am a survivor of physical, mental and sexual abuse. And the constant news concerning a certain Supreme Court nominee has left me feeling raw. I understand how it feels to be marginalized and ignored. It happened to me when I tried to speak out against my rapists. Yes, two of them. Statistically, a person is more likely to be raped more than once in their life. Rapists can sense the vulnerability of someone, especially someone who was raped before.

As a child, when I reported to my parents and grandparents that my cousin was raping me, I needed their support, comfort and assurances that they would stop him. Instead, I was called a liar. I was forced to spend more time with him. And this gave him all the more access to abuse me. He sits in prison for other reasons today.

This is why it is so frustrating when I see people making jokes about those who put their lives, careers, and families on the line to speak out about their abuse. It hurts me very deeply because it puts me back in my grandmother’s living room being told that I was trying to ruin my cousins life, I was lying, and I needed to apologize to him. That is a trauma that I may never fully move past.

As a society, we have to do better than this. I have seen Doctors, Nurses, Physicians Assistants and others who are sometimes the first person a victim discloses to joke about sexual abuse. I have seen them belittle survivors and glorify the abusers. And that has to stop! We should be better than this.

We need to learn to embrace the victims. It is our job to give them a safe place to disclose their trauma, a place where they can get help and be heard. They need our love and support. Without it, many victims either self medicate with drugs and alcohol, or worse, they try and sometimes succeed in killing themselves. I know, I tried to kill myself as a teenager.

It would take me years to finally disclose all the abuse I suffered from my cousin, my mother, and many, many others. It has been liberating, painful, and difficult to deal with all the emotions surrounding those events. Thankfully, I have a great therapist who is helping me work through those issues. And I feel more at peace today than I ever have in my past.

I beg of you and all of society, please stop being so mean. Stop vilifying the victims. Be a force for good and love those around you. Because the very soul of our nation, the very soul of world, depends on it.

At Saint Francis, we are committed to being a safe place for those who are hurt, ignored, abused, mistreated, and marginalized. As Pastor, I am committed to defending each and every person who walks through our doors. And I will be there to listen, provide support and prayer, and if need be, help you find the professional help you need to work through any trauma you have suffered.

It is not an easy journey, but it is one I have traveled myself.

Remember, I believe you. God loves you, and so do we.

Sep 222018

My son’s hard lesson

hard lesson

People can be cruel sometimes. My son works hard at everything he does and despite that, there are people his age who work to make him feel like crap. They bully and harass him routinely and make he not want to engage in the activities that he once loved. The hard lesson in this is that this kind of behavior happens in the world all the time.

We have to learn that we are worth more than those people think of us. We are worth being treated right. And yes, sometimes that means stepping away from those people if they choose to continue to act that way toward us. We have to respect ourselves enough to avoid those people who do not respect us.

My son will be speaking with those people who can hopefully help him Monday. I encouraged him to speak to those in authority and to explain how he feels. The first step to healing is identifying those emotions that we are feeling about the situations around us. Then we decide how to deal with those emotions. That may be discussing it with the people who have hurt us, going to someone in authority and asking for their help, or deciding that we need to walk away from the people or groups that are causing us this pain.

It is never wrong if we find that we cannot continue to give those people a chance to harm us. In fact, it is very healthy to consider our own health and healing from time to time.

And yes, we all need to support those who are dealing with those types of toxic situations. It is not easy to identify those situations and to work through them. But we can be the force that is the difference between life and death for someone in those situation.

And that my friends, is what being Christ in the world is all about.

Sep 142018

The struggle in the face of hate

struggle

I wake up every day and struggle to do the best I can to help as many people as I can. It is not an easy task. And with my health issues, it makes it very difficult sometimes to continue on. And this week, my family and I suffered a vicious attack by a former friend that made me question why I even try to help people.

Indulge me for a moment, please. Like Saint Paul (2 Corinthians 11:16-33), I am want to take a moment to talk about what I have done and what I have gone through. I was abused as a child by my mother, raped by my cousin and later by a friend and his wife. I have been thrown out of several churches, had clergy leave me because I expected them to be ethical. I was disowned by my family because of who I loved. As a teenager, I was accused of things I did not do because I saw a police officer with his mistress and I went to church with him and his wife (eventually the charges were dropped and he was removed from law enforcement for what he did). I was detained by the police at the direction of a Roman Catholic Priest because he swore I was crazy and a threat to myself and others because Old Catholics did not exist. I have been lied to, lied about, cursed, mistreated and thrown away more times than I can count.

I have diabetes and arthritis in my spine, neck and hands. I have had at least 4 cardiac episodes that no doctor can agree on whether they were heart attacks, cardiac arrests or something else. On a scale of 1 to 10, I deal with a 7 to 9 level of pain every single day. I have reoccurring MRSA infections stemming from my heat stroke almost 6 years ago at the Augusta Pride event. I have PTSD and depression that sometimes tries to cripple me. As a teenager, I tried to kill myself. The person who saved me, who I admired, tried to sexually molest and abuse me.

I get up every morning and I work with the church. I am the Presiding Bishop of our National Church, Bishop of the local diocese, and Pastor here at Saint Francis. I volunteer my free time to helping the High School Band program. I worked concessions and now I am the booster president. I am the President of one of the local Amateur Radio Clubs. I am the founder and sometimes the sole volunteer at the High School Amateur Radio Club. I work with the Red Cross, Medical Reserve Corp, SC AUXCOM, Amateur Radio Emergency Service, American Radio Relay League, just to name a few.  I fight to get the kids everything they need and sometimes what they want from the local school district. I work with the Progressive Religious Coalition. I spend every waking moment helping others, sometimes at the expense of my own health. As the hurricane approaches this weekend, my son and I will be going to the County EOC to help with communications.

The attack on my family and myself this week made me wonder for a moment why I try to help people at all. The person called into question whether or not I was really a Christian. Another person made the comment that just because I dress the part doesn’t make me one. A local Episcopalian Ministry Team member chimed in and applauded their attacks of me. Many of those applauding do not even know me!

All these attacks started because I said that the Governor of South Carolina was wrong to leave prisoners locked in a cement cage directly in the path of a major hurricane. It stemmed from the fact that they believed they should remain there and if they died, it was no great loss. I was defending the lives of the prisoners and they did not like that.

I say all this to get to my greater point. It is not about what I do or don’t do. It is not even about whether I am their idea of a perfect Christian or Pastor. What it is all about it not judging people based on snippets of information. It is about looking at the entirety of their lives not just their mistakes or shortcomings. Otherwise, there would not be a single person worthy to stand before God and enter heaven.

I will have a lot of things to answer for when I stand before God. But so will we all. Rather than judging each other and looking for ways to tear others down, maybe we should be looking for ways to build others up. Maybe we should be looking for ways to help others instead of criticizing those who are. It is time that we change our way of living and interacting with others.

Be a force for positive change, not a destructive force.

Sep 072018

Illnesses and the path to healing

illness

I found myself rather ill this week. It happens every year during the first few weeks of the new school year. My son tends to bring home something from the students at school. As a dear friend of mine says, I am at the point where I am afraid I might survive this illness!

Illnesses have a way of helping us to put life in perspective. This week I was reminded of someone I once trusted and thought was a dear friend. What I learned over time was that they did not respect me nor did they care about me. They made fun of my weight, my walk, and the way I talked. These people belittled me routinely both behind my back and to my face, and worked to keep me submissive to them. They routinely let me know how stupid they thought I was and that I was never going to be anything but a failure. This was the same type of behavior my own mother engaged in for decades. And I was conditioned to accept this as normal. The pain it caused me was comfortable and was a known quantity.

I suffered in silence for several years. It became second nature after a while. But my silence only hurt me further and allowed them to have power over me. My silence enabled them to continue to make fun of me, bully me and make me feel like I was stupid and inadequate. I continue to struggle with the emotional damage they caused to this day. This emotional damage ended up causing some physical damage as well.

One of the ways I coped was to rely on self-deprecating humor about myself. I am working to stop that pattern of abusing myself emotionally. I am starting to accept the limitations I have in my life because of my health. But it is a long process.

If you are struggling with this type of emotional abuse, I can tell you that it is not an easy path toward healing. It takes time and the support of a supportive community of people around you. Thankfully, I have a dear brother in Wisconsin and one in Flourtown, PA that are helping me on my journey. My wife and son also help to provide support on this journey. It is hard on all of them I am sure. But they continue to help me and support my journey. I cannot thank them enough for all their support.

As you journey toward emotional and mental healing, you should not walk this path alone. You need the support of those around you especially during those dark moments. It is also important that you remember to be gentle with yourself. There will be good days and bad days. There will be days when you feel like giving up. That is where your support base comes into play. They will help to keep you grounded and will help you to find your center.

And please remember to reach out for help during those dark moments. I know that during my dark times I find myself believing that I do not want to burden others with my issues. But that is why you have the support base. They are there to help you, but you have to reach out to them. They cannot read your mind. And maybe you can discuss with them a sign or phrase that can be an alert to them that you need their support or help. That may help you reach out when the struggle is particularly hard.

I am no pro at this. I am still walking my own path toward healing. In fact, millions of us are walking that same path. So you are not alone. Here at Saint Francis we strive to be that supportive family for people from all walks of life and from all stops along the path to healing.

It is our hope that you will find us to be a different way to be Catholic.

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