Saturday, October 31, 2009

L.A. Times: John Harris Burt Obituary

John Harris Burt dies at 91; former rector at Pasadena's All Saints Episcopal Church
The retired bishop was a bold supporter of the civil rights movement and a friend of Martin Luther King Jr.
By Elaine Woo - October 30, 2009 [source link]

John Harris Burt, a retired bishop who advanced a tradition of social activism at Pasadena’s All Saints Episcopal Church with his bold support of the civil rights movement when he was rector in the 1960s, died Oct. 20 at his home on Lake Superior outside Marquette, Mich. He was 91.

Burt died after a long illness, said his daughter Susan Burt.

A friend of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Burt helped organize massive civil rights rallies in Los Angeles, including a 1963 event in South Los Angeles that attracted 30,000 people. He also was a vocal supporter of Cesar Chavez and the farmworkers movement.

Burt was one of four rectors "who really shaped All Saints to be a peace and justice church," said Rector J. Edwin Bacon, who currently leads the Pasadena church, one of Southern California's largest and most liberal.

It is known for its outspoken clergy and the strong stands it has taken against war, poverty and racial and ethnic discrimination over the last seven decades, beginning in 1942 when Rector Frank Scott stood in front of trains to protest the removal of Japanese Americans to internment camps during World War II.

Burt, who succeeded Scott in 1957, became known over the next decade for his courageous support of King.

In 1963, Burt sat in the first row behind the lectern at South L.A.'s Wrigley Field (later demolished), where King addressed what was then the largest civil rights rally held in the city. It raised thousands of dollars to support King's nonviolent crusade against racial inequality in the South, including a $20,000 pledge by entertainer Sammy Davis Jr., one of several celebrities who spoke at the rally.

In 1964, he again sat behind King as the great civil rights leader addressed 15,000 people at the Coliseum for an interfaith rally called "Religious Witness for Human Dignity."

His vocal backing of King caused some worshipers to leave All Saints; an anonymous caller threatened to bomb Burt's house. When a group of church trustees asked him to stop preaching about racial issues, "he said he was always open for people to come and share their dissent with him, but the pulpit at All Saints is free," said George F. Regas, who succeeded him as rector.

He believed that so strongly that he "felt obligated the next Sunday to preach on racial justice," Regas noted.

Burt was born April 11, 1918, in Marquette, where his father, Bates Burt, was a community activist and rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church. John's younger brother, Alfred S. Burt, became a famous composer of Christmas carols, including "Caroling Caroling" and "Some Children See Him."

John Burt graduated from Amherst College in 1940. After postgraduate studies at Columbia University and a stint as a social worker on New York's Lower East Side, he entered the Episcopal Theological Seminary in Virginia and was ordained in 1943.

During World War II he served as a Navy chaplain in the Pacific theater. After the war, he served at St. John's Episcopal Church in Youngstown, Ohio, where he helped lead efforts to integrate swimming pools and housing.

In 1957, he arrived at All Saints in Pasadena, where he was active in civic matters as president of the Pasadena Community Planning Council. He also was president of the Southern California Council of Churches and vice chairman of the United Nations Assn. of Southern California.

In 1967, he became the eighth bishop of Ohio. An early advocate for the ordination of women, he vowed to resign as bishop if the Episcopal General Convention failed to approve the ordination of female priests in 1976. The measure succeeded, and in early 1977, Burt ordained the first of eight women he would elevate to the priesthood during his 17-year tenure as bishop.

In 1978, he helped found a coalition of ecumenical and political leaders to keep steel plants open in Youngstown, with proposals that included allowing workers to buy the mills. The effort failed, but his advocacy earned him the prestigious Thomas Merton Award, which had previously been given to activists Dorothy Day, Joan Baez and Dick Gregory.

After retiring in 1984, Burt remained active in the ecumenical movement as president of the National Christian Leadership Conference for Israel from 1992 to 1998.

He is survived by his wife, Martha; four daughters; six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times

Tuesday, October 27, 2009 Come Out to Play This Halloween

by the Rev. Bacon

[source link] Somewhere between your child's pricey costume and your panicked run to the store for more trick-or-treat supplies, have you lost your love for Halloween? The Rev. Ed Bacon reveals his family's traditions and why you can use this time of year to live out your greatest fantasy—just as long as you eventually go back to being yourself.
This Halloween, my 5-year-old granddaughter will be Dorothy from Wizard of Oz and my 2-year-old grandson will be Thomas the Tank Engine. No one knows what my wife will be. Last year, she was a butterfly with big, beautiful, blue, purple and black wings. The year before, she was Winnie the Pooh's Tigger with a long, orange and black tiger tail and cute, pointed ears. It's always a surprise when I get home on Halloween afternoon to find out who my wife is this year.

Whatever my wife becomes on Halloween, we will give treats to about 100 ghosts, fairies, pirates, bumblebees, cowboys, princesses and zombies who parade to our front yard shouting, "Trick or treat." And we always have a big pot of chili on the stove in case one of our friends who is the parent of a trick-or-treater needs some protein for those last few knocks on the neighborhood doors.
. .
Halloween is big for adults as well as for kids. That night, there are parties throughout metropolitan Los Angeles, where we live. Adults are doing what the children do—dressing up in the costumes of some fantasy about themselves they hold inside. When we become playful about Halloween, accessing our inner child, we can for a few hours pretend to be someone else or something else or some animal. That choice may reveal where our souls or personalities are this particular year; it may be simple whimsy. You can imagine how many Barack Obamas or Madonnas may be out partying this year.

All of this is healthy fun. For centuries, cultures have some form of annual "carnival" in which another persona comes out to play. It is a way of saying that we all live in a very diverse community of selves. That is one thing celebrated the next day in Christian circles—after all, Halloween is shorthand for the Eve of All Hallows—All Saints Day.

On Halloween, we also celebrate that sometimes we have fantasies about being someone else. But the sanest and healthiest thing always is to settle back down to be your own unique and true self.

Now this year, I'm thinking my Halloweens of sweating behind that rubber monster mask I've worn in years past are over. Maybe this year I'll dress up to be Dr. Oz!

The Rev. Ed Bacon is a guest host for the Oprah's Soul Series radio show. He is also the rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California.

Monday, October 26, 2009

LA Times: All Saints member Betty Cole in the CROP Walk news

"A charity event that always hits its stride"
By Larry B. Stammer
October 26, 2009

The Crop Hunger Walk, a national interfaith program whose feet-on-the-ground method has been emulated for many other causes, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.

Read the entire L.A. Times feature here ... including these quotes from All Saints member Betty Cole:

Betty Cole, a teacher at Pasadena's Westridge School for girls, said Crop Hunger Walks are unique. "There are plenty of other walks I participate in. But when you think about it, almost all the other walks have built-in constituencies. We all know people who have had cancer, so we will walk for an organization raising money for cancer. We have dogs, so we have walks to provide shelters for dogs."

But, she added, people who are hungry have no constituency and are unlikely to announce their impoverishment by walking for themselves.

"There's so much shame attached to being poor and hungry," Cole said. "If other people don't walk on behalf of people who are going hungry, who is going to do that?"

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pasadena Star-News: Former All Saints rector remembered

By Alfred Lee, Staff Writer
Posted: 10/24/2009 [source link]

PASADENA - John Burt, who fought for civil rights and other social reforms as rector of All Saints Episcopal Church through most of the 1960s, died Tuesday at his home in Michigan. He was 91.

Burt came to All Saints in 1957 after tenures in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Youngstown, Ohio. In his 10 years at All Saints, he involved himself and the church in many causes but was perhaps best known for his civil rights advocacy.

His convictions led him to speak from the pulpit and at other public forums and to co-sponsor rallies and meetings at which Martin Luther King Jr. spoke. He drew criticism from both inside and outside the church, even receiving death threats for his activism.

"Although he did many things, he is kind of the light for civil rights during his tenure at All Saints," said the Rev. Ed Bacon, rector of All Saints.

"He made it clear that he wanted All Saints to be on the forefront of racial justice," the Rev. George Regas, rector from 1967 to 1995, said.

In 1964, Burt introduced Martin Luther King Jr. at a rally of 35,000 people in now-demolished Wrigley Field in South Los Angeles.

Liz Morton, a member of All Saints for 63 years, accompanied him to the rally, which at the time was the largest civil rights gathering in the history of Los Angeles.

"I was the only white face in that entire place, except for John Burt and his wife," Morton recalled. "I felt terribly conspicuous just sitting down on the field."

Burt also helped convene a meeting at the Shrine Auditorium featuring King. The night before, his home received a bomb threat.

On another occasion, his daughter picked up the phone at home, only to speak to a man at the other end of the line who threatened to "kill daddy," Bacon said, recalling the event told to him by the daughter.

"His family and his own reputation were attacked," Bacon said.

Burt had many supporters in the church, which has a long history of progressive activism, but was not without detractors.

"One prominent member of the All Saints vestry accused John publicly of being communist," Morton said. "Anybody who had anything to do with Martin Luther King was accused of being communist."

On another occasion, a group of church leaders confronted Burt, Regas said.

"They came in and they said they felt he was talking too much about racial justice and that they hoped he would tame down his message and not be so occupied with that," Regas said.

"He listened, and he said, `Well I certainly want to listen to your concerns, but I want you to know that this meeting has just encouraged me to preach on racial justice again next Sunday.' He was not going to allow them to muzzle him. He wanted the pulpit to be free to proclaim what God was calling him to do."

Burt also took up other causes, such as that of farm workers' unions in the 1960s.

"After his services I felt like I'd been put through the ringer," Morton said. "He told it like it was, in talking about peace and justice and our role in that area, of things we should do to make things right. He was a very gifted preacher."

In 1967, Burt was elected bishop of Ohio, where he served until 1984.

Bacon said he has tried to be a "steward of the same mission" during his own time at All Saints, by fighting for gay and lesbian rights and protesting the war in Iraq.

"All Saints is rooted in the tradition of the prophets," Bacon said. "The Old Testament prophets and Jesus as a prophet and all of those religious leaders had a deep connection with God, and that connection led them to take daring stands on behalf of the least of us, and the most vulnerable and marginalized in society."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

+JOHN HARRIS BURT: Giant of Justice -- 1918-2009

We received word today that John Harris Burt -- retired Bishop of Ohio and former rector of All Saints Church, Pasadena -- died this morning at the age of 91. A tireless advocate for peace, justice, compassion and equality, +John Burt's prophetic ministry here at All Saints Church in Pasadena was an important source of the DNA of social justice that is a cornerstone of the All Saints Church work and witness.

These newspaper clippings from the All Saints Church archives show John Burt with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he spoke for racial justice here in Los Angeles in 1964

The story the news clippings do NOT tell is the one about the death threats he received because of his witness for human dignity in the crucible of the Civil Rights Movement.

From the obituary in today's Episcopal Life Online:

Retired Bishop of Ohio John H. Burt died October 20 at his home on the southern shore of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He was 91 years old.
In a career spanning five decades, Burt dedicated himself to social reform, racial and gender justice and ways in which the world's churches could work together to effect positive social and political changes. Believing that "the world alters as we walk in it," he stood out as a leader in seeking ways in which the church could respond to the complex challenges of the 20th century.

Burt became the rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California, in 1957 and transformed that church into one of the largest and most active voices for social change in the country. As an advocate for social justice in the 1960s, Burt's name was linked with both local and national social and political activity.

As president of the Pasadena Community Planning Council, he coordinated the work of welfare and other civic organizations. In 1963 he was a co-sponsor of the "Rally for Freedom," Los Angeles's largest civil rights rally until that date, at which Dr. Martin Luther King spoke to 35,000 supporters of freedom fighters in the South.

The night before, Burt convened a "Town Meeting for Democracy" with Dr. King at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, which was attended by both Democratic and Republican Senators as well as Hollywood celebrities, a bomb threat was called in to his home, and the LAPD bomb squad was summoned.

Burt was elected bishop of Ohio in 1967 and served until his retirement in 1984. During his tenure, he was a vocal opponent of the war in Vietnam, speaking at rallies in Cleveland and Kent State.

He gained national attention when the Presiding Bishop named him to be a delegate on an interfaith global tour which took him to South Vietnam and culminated in an International Inter-Religious Symposium of Peace in New Delhi. The symposium was the first in history to gather around a single conference table leaders of the Hindu, Moslem, Shinto, Taoist, Buddhist, Christian and Jewish traditions.
Read the rest here.
Services will be Friday, October 30th in Marquette, Michigan.

Give rest, O Christ, to your servant with your saints,
where sorrow and pain are no more,
neither sighing, but life everlasting.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Ed Bacon guests on "Sunday L.A."

All Saints' Rector Ed Bacon was a guest this morning on "Sunday L.A." -- local morning news on KNBC4.2 -- with thoughts on Spirituality, Religion, Science, Faith, Scipture & Interconnectedness.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

National Coming Out Day Press Conference

It was another beautiful day in the neighborhood -- and while thousands gathered on the mall in Washington DC to march for equality, hundreds gathered on the All Saints lawn for a press conference giving faith leaders the chance to "come out" for equality -- and to stand in solidarity with the Reverend Dr. Eric Lee ... President of SCLC-Los Angeles and under attack for his unequivocal support for LGBT equality.

Here's a slide show of the day:

And here are some photos of Dr. Lee earlier in the day in the Rector's Forum:

Attentive crowd listening to ...

The Reverend Dr. Eric Lee

Dr. Lee with All Saints Rector, Ed Bacon

Louise Brooks, David Norgard & Dr. Lee

Dr. Lee & Susan Russell

Friday, October 9, 2009

October 11 Press Conference: National Coming Out Day Action at All Saints Church

October 9, 2009

On National Coming Out Day, Faith Leaders Come Out In Support of Local Southern Christian Leadership Conference President, Rev. Dr. Eric Lee, Under Fire For His Support of Marriage Equality

A press conference featuring local faith leaders will mark National Coming Out Day at All Saints Church in Pasadena (132 N Euclid Avenue, Pasadena) on Sunday,October 11, beginning at 12:30 p.m.

The clergy will “come out” for marriage equality and will announce initiatives of support for the Reverend Dr. Eric Lee -- President and CEO of the Los Angeles branch of the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Council ) -- the organization Dr. Martin Luther King co-founded. Dr. Eric Lee has been an advocate not only for racial equality and economic justice for laborers. Now he is under fire for his strong stance in favor of marriage equality.

Dr. Lee will speak in the All Saints Rector’s Forum at 10:15 a.m. and will make a statement at a press conference at 12:30 pm. (following the 11:15 a.m. worship service). Standing in solidarity with Dr. Lee and “coming out” for LGBT equality will be:

Rabbi Steven Jacobs (long time civil rights activist),
The Reverend Zelda Kennedy (Senior Associate for Pastoral Care & Spiritual Growth)
The Reverend David Norgard (president of Integrity USA)
The Reverend Dr. Jonipher Kwong (California Faith for Equality)
The Reverend Art Cribbs (United Church of Christ, San Marino)

“Despite the fact that Coretta Scott King said before her death that Dr. King’s values meant that he would have supported gay rights, the SCLC leadership is considering relieving Eric Lee of his SCLC post,” said All Saints Rector Ed Bacon in his letter to the congregation regarding Sunday’s action, encouraging parish members “to learn from and cheer on this contemporary prophet."

“As thousands march for equality in Washington on Sunday, we will likewise be mobilizing thousands to stand for equality through letter writing campaigns in support of Dr. Lee’s prophetic witness,” said the Reverend Susan Russell, a Senior Associate at All Saints Church. All Saints Church parish members will be signing letters on the church lawn on Sunday morning, while California Faith for Equality will be initiating an online letter campaign.

For more information contact:
Keith Holeman, All Saints Director of Communications -- 626.583.2739
Louise Brooks, California Faith for Equality -- 626.993.4605