Wednesday, December 30, 2009

PASADENA WEEKLY: Coats of Compassion

All Saints is overwhelmed with more than 500 coats donated to the poor following Bacon’s call for help

By Carl Kozlowski 12/24/2009 [source link]

Pasadena’s All Saints Church has long held a reputation for being one of the most progressive and activist churches in the nation when it comes to helping the poor, especially at Christmastime.

But even leaders of this ├╝ber-generous house of worship didn’t expect the huge response they received from concerned community members following a special sermon by Rector Ed Bacon on Dec. 12.

Recounting the story of a medieval bishop who decreed that a person is committing a sin if they have more than one unused coat in their closet, Bacon urged parishioners to bring their unused coats in as donations that would transform the winter garments from “sin coats” to “compassion coats.”

The results were overwhelming, with more than 500 coats being donated from parishioners alone — and hundreds more coming in from other parts of the community.

“It’s a great human interest story,” said All Saints Director of Communications Keith Holeman. “We did this three years ago and we’ve already surpassed that with about 500 coats already in and there’s been an interesting ripple effect in the community that we didn’t see before. Westridge School became aware of the coat drive and held one of their own, and they’ve collected 50 to 60 coats. Plus,” Holeman said, “a real estate agent in the parish sent a letter to his clients saying ‘we’ve benefitted from each other over the years and now we need to help others.’ He sent out about 150 letters and as of a couple of days ago he’s received about 50 coats. Then an All Saints staff member’s daughter is collecting coats at her office Christmas Party instead of doing Secret Santa this year. And there will be more stories coming.”

The coats will be delivered to the Dolores Mission, run by Catholic priest Father Greg Boyle, as well as the Ecumenical Council Pasadena Area Churches (ECPAC) Bad Weather Shelter, ECPAC’s Women’s Room program and to Families in Transition for homeless families in the Pasadena Unified School District.

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[Note: The total reached over 1200 coats and jackets received for distribution!]

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Scriptural literalism pays off @ All Saints Church!

From Sunday's Gospel:

And the crowds asked [John the Baptist], "What then should we do?" In reply he said to them, "Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none ... "

And here's the tip-of-the-iceberg of the outpouring of coats being dropped off at ASC today in response to the rector's sermon yesterday ... urging everyone to go home and clean out their closets of extra coats on behalf of those who have none.

You can watch the whole sermon -- "We need to expect more" -- on the All Saints Church website. And if you're in the Pasadena neighborhood, do consider dropping off coats and jackets that we can add to the pile.

And if you're NOT in the Pasadena neighborhood, what the heck -- clean out your closet anyway and help share the warmth with one of the agencies reaching out to those in need in your neck of the woods.

(See also: Inasmuch as you did it unto the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you did it unto me!)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Wall Street Journal: Episcopal Church Tensions Stirred

[All Saints' Rector Ed Bacon quoted in this WJS piece on the election of two new bishops suffragan for the Diocese of Los Angeles.]

The breach between conservative and liberal Episcopalians widened as a lesbian was elected an assistant bishop in Los Angeles, drawing fire from Anglicans world-wide.

The Rev. Canon Mary D. Glasspool, 55 years old, was elected late Saturday on a seventh ballot, after several votes ended in deadlocks. Open about her sexual orientation since her seminary days, Canon Glasspool has been with the woman she calls her life partner since 1988.

She is in line to become the second openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, after the Right Rev. V. Gene Robinson, who took office in New Hampshire in 2004.

The Episcopal Church, with about two million members, is the U.S. branch of the world-wide Anglican Communion, which has about 80 million members.

Bishop Robinson's election raised tensions between the U.S. church and its counterparts around the world, especially in Africa and South America, where church leaders expressed concern that the Americans were pursuing a liberal social agenda in defiance of traditional Christian teachings on homosexuality.

To try to hold the communion together, the Episcopal Church agreed to stop ordaining gay bishops. But at its national convention last summer, the church voted to reverse that ban, leading to Canon Glasspool's election.

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the world-wide Anglican communion, issued a statement saying Canon Glasspool's election "raises very serious questions" about the Episcopal Church's role in the Anglican Communion. He called on American Episcopalians to refrain from provocative acts. Maintaining a "period of gracious restraint," he said, is vital "if our bonds of mutual affection are to hold."

His concern was echoed by Father John Spencer, vicar general of a diocese in Quincy, Ill., that refuses to recognize the authority of the U.S. Episcopal Church because of its stance on issues such as the ordination of gays. That diocese is one of several in the U.S. that have broken away from the national Episcopal church and aligned instead with more conservative Anglican provinces overseas.
Father Spencer said the American Episcopal leadership seems bent on making political statements "rather than pursuing Christian unity with the rest of the church."

It is unclear whether the communion would support a move to expel the Episcopal Church. An expulsion would require approval from two-thirds of the Anglican communion's roughly three dozen provinces world-wide.

Bishop Robinson, the first openly gay bishop, said in an interview that he doubted conservative critics could muster that two-thirds majority. "Asian and African bishops have said to me, 'Look, we don't agree with you on this issue. We don't ordain gays. But we're worried about people dying of AIDS, malaria and abject poverty and this comes way down on our list of priorities,'" he said. "It's not a communion-breaker."

Some Americans believe that if the communion does attempt to expel American Episcopalians, it is a price worth paying, said the Rev. Ed Bacon, rector of All Saints Church, a Episcopal congregation in Pasadena, Calif. "I'm sure there will be people who will call for the American church to have second-class status or even not to be admitted to the communion," he said. "But the American church is willing to take whatever consequences may come in order to save its soul, which means boldly and consistently advocating for justice for all."

Bishop-elect Glasspool is intimately familiar with the deep divides in the church over the role of women and gays. Her late father was an Episcopal priest who didn't believe that women should be ordained, Canon Glasspool wrote in her application for the post of bishop suffragan, or assistant bishop, in Los Angeles. She also described years of intense struggle as a young woman as she sought to reconcile her faith and her sexuality. She finally came, she wrote, to understand "the integrity of responding to God's call with your whole person, being exactly who you are." She was traveling Sunday and unavailable for comment.

A day before Canon Glasspool's election, clergy and lay delegates to the Los Angeles diocesan convention elevated another female priest, the Rev. Canon Diane Bruce, 53, to another open position as assistant bishop. She and Canon Glasspool will become the first two female bishops in the diocese's 114-year history. Their elections must still be confirmed by a majority of dioceses within the Episcopal Church. If this happens, as is expected, they will be ordained in May.


[Write to Stephanie Simon at stephanie.simon@wsj.com]