Introducing…St. Thurgood Marshall

Speaking of Supreme Court justices…

The Episcopal Church will on Sunday add Thurgood Marshall to its roster of “Holy Women and Holy Men,” which is “akin to being granted sainthood,” according to the church.

A special service will be held at 4 p.m. at St. Philip’s Church in Harlem, where Marshall was a longtime parishioner.

Several choirs will participate and Bishop of New York Mark Sisk will celebrate the Holy Eucharist.

The preacher will be the Rev. George W. Brandt, Jr., rector of St. Michael’s Church on West 99th Street.

The Episcopal Church is also moving toward setting May 17 — the day of Marshall’s victory in the Brown vs. Board of Education case — as his feast day. It could happen by 2015, but the Episcopal Church is encouraging people to mark the feast day now.

(Hey, Zach.)

Religious leaders can’t go along with release of Lockerie bomber

There was little talk of forgiveness in NBC’s report last night about what NY religious leaders have to say on the release of the Lockerie bomber from a Scottish prison.

You can read a full report HERE, but here are a few snippets:

Archbishop Dolan: “While as a follower of Jesus Christ I believe in mercy, I also believe that mercy must always be tempered with justice. Mercy can be demonstrated in ways other than by releasing a man responsible for so much pain, suffering, and death.”

Episcopal Bishop of NY Mark Sisk (that’s him): “It seems to me to be a truly terrible misunderstanding of what compassion is. It truly undercut the sensibilities of those who are the survivors.  And in that sense, it is, I think horrific.”

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, head of the New York Board of Rabbis: “I cannot forgive this person (Al-Megrahi), I cannot forgive Adolf Hitler. I cannot forgive Timothy McVeigh.”

Imam Mohammed Shamsi Ali of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York: “I don’t want this to be a signal or gesture to the other criminals around to say at the end of the day you will be a heroic one. Terrorism is terrorism and we want terrorism to be stopped in any way and in any means possible.”

Religious leaders to talk about Lockerbie bomber release on NBC at 6 p.m.

NBC news apparently interviewed religious leaders in NYC about the controversial release from prison in Scotland of the Lockerbie bomber, Libyan Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, and will air a report tonight (Aug. 25) at 6 p.m.

Among those interviewed: Episcopal Bishop of NY Mark Sisk, Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive director of the New York Board of Rabbis, and Imam Mohammad Shamsi Ali, Head Imam at the Islamic Cultural Center of New York.

You have to figure there will be talk about justice and forgiveness (but not necessarily in that order).

Episcopal Bishop Sisk on the financial crisis, serving the poor, and more

The Episcopal Diocese of New York — which includes more than 200 churches in NYC and the Hudson Valley — had its 232nd convention a few days back.

Bishop Mark Sisk, the boss, gave a long address that you can read HERE.

Here are some highlights:

On the matter of offering a public Christian voice that is an alternative to the “religious right,” Sisk said:

What we are attempting to do is nothing less than change the grammar, as it were, the reference points, of the public conversation, when it comes to the matter of religion. What we are attempting to do, as I have said so often before is to bring to bear, on the wider public consciousness, the concerns of the Christian community as expressed from the point of view of the broad, moderate, Christian center, rather than the current dominant, strident, and often simplistic voices that have become so prominent. The task is daunting. We are called to travel against the traffic. No wonder the road seems so long. But I believe it is our duty to follow it. We simply can not allow the faith we hold so dear to be captured by what I would have to say is one, narrow, point of view. I continue to believe that, working with our Cathedral, we will be able to focus much more sharply on the great issues which urgently face the human community. We can, we must, enter into a nation wide, indeed a world wide, conversation.

On the financial crisis:

The very first theme to be noted is the remarkable level of anxiety, even fear, that grips so many. This, in turn, casts a stark light on the extent to which we have allowed concerns about security, as measured in dollars, to claim a central role in our lives. I remember clearly, even though it was many years ago, when a leading political pundit responded to an interviewer’s question as to his understanding of the purpose of the freedom enjoyed by an American citizen. The purpose, he responded, was for, “the free and unfettered accumulation of goods.” I wondered then, as I wonder now, just how far that notion was from the hopes and dreams of those Mayflower pilgrims who risked and sacrificed so much for their freedom to worship.

It is our duty, as it is our privilege as Christians, to remind ourselves and assure others that, as important as material well-being may be, it is not the purpose of life – it is not what gives life meaning. We can and should remind ourselves that we, and all people, all creation, exist and live continually in the embrace of God’s Almighty arms of love. With that knowledge we can face any hardship.

On the tensions within the Anglican world over homosexuality:

What we do here, in this Diocese, in this Episcopal Church of ours, affects the life in tiny villages in Tanzania, the Sudan, or Sri Lanka, Jamaica, Pakistan, and Brazil, and on and on around the world. What we do affects them – and what they do affects us. We are not hermetically sealed off one from the other. We can not ignore them nor they us – yet neither they nor we can be held captive by the other. We are not called to be each others prisoners – rather – we are called to recognize each other as brothers and sisters. And, as every family knows, and often knows painfully well, family relationships entail not only compassion, patience, and understanding, but also, from time to time: disappointment, frustration, and even anger. There are, obviously those who conceive of this Anglican Communion of ours as something akin to a venerable club, a voluntary membership association of largely like minded individuals. Others among us, conceive of the Anglican Communion more as a family, a home to belong to, and a community to relate to, as we live out our lives as Christian people. And as Robert Frost famously reminded us,

Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.

On serving the needy at this difficult time:

I find it more than a little ironic that when the issue of meeting basic human needs is raised: be that education, or healthcare, or housing for the homeless, a common objection is the firm and wise sounding declaration: you know, you can’t just throw money at a problem. And yet, when financial institutions are in crisis, led by the very well paid people, who did so much to bring us this crisis in the first place, when they ask for aid that is exactly what happens. Money has been thrown at the problem. And it has been thrown without a really clear understanding of exactly what it will actually accomplish. As you know so well, we’re not talking here about billions of dollars, or tens of billions, not even hundreds of billions, but, in the end, something in excess of a trillion dollars. In human terms this is more money than the human mind can fathom.

Mind you, I am not saying that this shouldn’t be done, or that it won’t work. What I am saying is that we should keep all these things in perspective and be mindful of just who finally is asked to actually pay the price for the national excess that has brought us to this sad moment.

We, as a community of faith, need to be among that company of people who press hard for the needs of the most helpless amongst us. At the same time, we must resist the temptation to continue what has become a familiar practice: impoverishing the future for the benefit of the present. To escape the tangle that engulfs us all a difficult balance must be struck.

A weekend worth of pope previews

Eight days and counting to the pope in the U.S.

In case you missed them over the weekend, the Journal News/LoHud.com has run a few more features about B16.

tjndc5-5jgjgzo3hbn1l7uks57x_layout.jpgOn Saturday, I had an “explainer” about the pope’s concerns regarding moral and religious relativism.

Days before his election, Benedict said:

We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism, which does not recognize anything as certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.

On Sunday, I had a feature about how Christian leaders from non-Catholic traditions see this pope so far. I spoke to several people who will attend an ecumenical prayer service with the pope in NYC on April 18, including two who will officially greet Benedict.

The consensus: Protestant and Orthodox leaders don’t always agree with the pope, of course, and often have strong disagreements with him. But they respect B16 as a clear thinker and straight talker.

As Bishop Mark Sisk, head of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, said:

The clarity of his positions can be off-putting to those who are used to more muted edges. I say his clarity invites conversation.

And today, my colleague Rich Liebson has a piece about Benedict’s Bavarian roots. The pope is German, yes. But the fact that he hails from Bavaria is particularly important.

I learned that Benedict often uses a greeting that is used only in Bavaria — “Grüss Gott.”

It means “Greet God.”

If you haven’t already, please check out our pope page.