“Respect the Dignity of Every Human Being”

It has been impossible to avoid coverage of the tape of Mr. Trump’s comments about his behavior towards women.  It has been virtually impossible to avoid hearing the comments themselves.  I found the comments very upsetting, demeaning and completely unacceptable from anyone, let alone a 59 year old man who at the time was in the position of employer and public figure.

I’ve been reflecting in the last few days about language and our culture and the way that we talk about each other.  This tape is particularly egregious and is not the equivalent of any other example.  But, it seems to me that the way that we talk about each other is an important issue and that it is one that we need to address.  In just the last six months, in our public discourse we have seen young black men referred to as thugs and bad guys by officers of the law and candidates for public office.  We have seen a presidential candidate label her opponent’s supporters as deplorable and irredeemable.  We have seen law enforcement officers called pigs and tyrants and spit on.  We have seen people labelled as criminals and terrorists only because of their religion or nation of origin.  We have even heard the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury label ordained women and LGBT people as “serious obstacles to unity” rather than as human beings with calls from God to ministry. The church is not exempt from this trend.  I hear people speaking of their fellow congregation members or clergy in similarly demeaning ways.

I see all of these and more as examples of a disturbing trend in the way that we treat one another.  Every time we renew our Baptismal Covenant, we promise to strive to respect the dignity of every human being.  The first step in that respect is paying attention to the way that we think and speak about each other.  We must think and speak about each other as equal human beings, as people with as much right to dignity and respect as we have ourselves.  We must change our own ways of speaking about each other.

We must also not be complicit with the trend in our world to treat others as less then us.  We must not be silent when people around us speak of others as less than.  We must speak up.  We cannot allow talk in the locker room, or the fraternity house, or the lunch table or the office or the parish hall or church meeting room.  We must speak up when we hear other spoken of in ways that do not respect their dignity as loved children of God.

We have all promised Christ himself that we will respect the dignity of every human being.  We must start with our own speech and move on to the speech that we allow to happen around us.  It is quite literally the very least that we can do as followers of Christ.

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Changing the World … One Child at a Time


13645188_10154163660212931_1386543424646728103_nAs school is starting around Western New York, I have been reflecting on the way that our Diocese is making a difference in our world is working with children over the summer.  The Eaton Reading Camp sponsored by the Diocese has completed its second summer, as has the Children of the Book reading camp at St. Luke’s, Jamestown.  St. Paul’s Cathedral conducts a reading camp through the Say Yes Buffalo program and St. Matthew’s, Buffalo hosts a Say Yes Buffalo camp that the neighboring Methodist church runs.

One of the most wonderful moments of my entire ministry as a Bishop happened last summer.  I was in the basement meeting room of our Diocesan Ministry Center, sitting at a piano playing songs that many of us remember from childhood.  Songs like “Twinkle, twinkle little star” and “Go tell Aunt Rhody”.  I was surrounded by children from the City of Buffalo and teenagers from Virginia and New Jersey.  They started off a little tentative, but by the end they were singing along.  The children were participants in the Eaton Summer Reading program and the teenagers were spending a week on a Mission Trip helping with the program.

So many studies show that a student’s reading level by the end of Grade 3 is a direct indicator of whether or not they will graduate, which is to say that children reading below level when they are nine years old will not graduate when they are seventeen years old. This is true because the end of Grade 3 is a time when children shift from learning to read to reading to learn. Study after study also shows that the ability to read and to understand what is read is the fundamental skill needed to escape from the cycle of generational poverty.

The research is clear: summer enrichment programs positively impact the reading levels of children living in poverty. If young children’s reading levels are able to be improved sustainably it can break the cycle of poverty because it will set them up for further success in school, high school graduation, and provide them with the ability to obtain better paying jobs. The better the education of the parent, the better the education of the child who will be able to live above the poverty line. In fact, intervening on the elementary level with a focus on reading can have a generational effect on the healing poverty of families.

One of my favorite stories about the impact we can have comes from the first year of the Eaton reading camp. On the Friday of the next to last week of the program on their way home on the bus, the children all on their own got out the books they had been reading on all week and started to read them.  The bus monitor held her breath, but they kept reading all the way home.  The bus monitor sent us all an email that evening with the subject line, “They were reading on the bus!” The picture of those children reading on the bus is one of my favorites.  It is an icon of changed lives.

Success is hard to measure, but we have some data and some stories.  It is clear to me that breaking the cycle of poverty one child at a time is perhaps the most important things that the Diocese of Western New York has ever done.

St. Luke’s, Jamestown, St. Paul’s Cathedral, St. Matthew’s, Buffalo and all of the people from all of the congregations who are helping with Eaton Camp are changing the world, one child at a time.


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My Statement on July 8, 2016

candleOnce again our hearts break.
Two more African-American men have been killed by police officers.
And now five officers in Dallas have been struck down as they attempted to keep the peace during a rally protesting police violence and honoring those dead black men.  Several other people who were part of the peace rally have been wounded.
We try to make sense of this to ourselves and our children, and there is no logic, no sense, no explanation.  We face an epidemic of violence for which it seems there is no cure.
There will be candlelight vigils and memorials this weekend–like the vigils in Ferguson and Baltimore, in Paris and Brussels, in Charleston and Orlando. It would be easy to admit our weariness, to say, “Why bother?  A candlelight vigil will not bring back those who were killed. A candlelight vigil won’t shield anyone from a police officer who misuses his service revolver, or from a crazy person with an automatic weapon.”
But by those candles we signify God’s grace and hope in the world.  We believe that there is an alternative to the dark night we are living through.  They are the symbols by which we say that “there is a better way, and we are here to make that better way come to pass.  We will not give up. This nightmare is not where we want to be, as people of faith or as Americans.”  It is important to come together to make that powerful statement.
I invite your prayers for the dead and for those who must go on living without them.  I invite your thanksgivings for the first responders who protect us at the cost of their lives.  I invite your action to support sane gun legislation.  And I invite your commitment to eliminate racism from our society.
Racism is the original sin of the United States, the nightmare that haunts our dream of  equality and justice, the ugly branding iron that has scarred every one of us, both black and white, from our nation’s beginnings until today.  This is our heart of darkness.
God calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves, to be neighbors to all–not just those who look like us or think like us or worship like us. That is God’s commandment, the God who created all in God’s image—black, brown and white, women and men, gay and straight together.
In this very dark time of anxiety and fear may we be models of love, patience and strength, just as Jesus was, knowing that the light will outshine the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it.
In Christ,
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