Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Monday, June 25, 2007

Resign Oh Dean of Grace Cathedral

A Problem: The Very Rev. Alan Jones, Dean of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, CA

Saul Alinsky, late great community organizer used to say, “make it personal….” To raise consciousness and awareness of social and political issues, make it personal, put a name and face on the issue. In the Episcopal Church one doesn’t criticize people by name, one doesn’t make it personal. We respect the person no matter what their actions or stands. Instead we’d rather gossip behind the backs of people, criticize their action and behavior and not confront them in person or in print.

I have long been a critic of Alan Jones, Dean of Grace Cathedral in word and print. On the whole he has run a good show at the Cathedral sine 1985. Attendance is good, the budget gets financed and the building has been completed – sans ceiling – during is tenure. That huge building is incredibly expensive to run and repair but money flows in to take care of it. There are good pastoral programs for the congregation and forums on interesting topics open to the public. Jones has suffered a divorce and prostate cancer and handled both with aplomb. He has remarried.

I like to call Jones the father of “woo-woo Episcopalianism.” He founded the Center for Christian Spirituality at the General Theological Seminary in New York City, while he was a professor there in the 1980’s. He has written a number of books on spirituality. He calls for a religion marked by “felicity.” He is described as bridging the gap between the intellect and spirituality. This three-decade emphasis on “spirituality” has sapped the church of it social justice consciousness.

Now my beef with Jones is the lack of a social justice aspect to his preaching, teaching and ministry. He has never made a public statement supporting LGBT rights. He said in a meeting where I was present that isn’t it too bad we have to categorize people by sex? Now he has hired a number of gay and lesbian clergy and lay staff at the Cathedral, and that is good. He remains silent on the human and legal rights of LGBT in church and society. While he has allowed same gender people to hold religious services of commitment in the Cathedral, he has never spoken publicly supporting the rights of same gender people to marry.

A number of years ago he wrote an article published in the San Francisco Chronicle on abortion. He carefully stated both sides of the issue showing knowledge and sympathy for those advocating freedom of choice and those opposing abortion. He failed to tell us readers what his position was. I do not know to this day.

Recently he refused to follow his Bishop, Marc Andrus, in marching to San Francisco’s Federal Building protesting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have not heard of his making a statement condemning those wars.

He has never marched in the Gay Pride parade in San Francisco along with many members of the Cathedral who do march. This year Bishop Marc Andrus will be the first diocesan Bishop to march in the parade. Jones did not participate this year either.

By putting Jones’ name on these issues, I bring to the foreground that these issues are seldom spoken or written about by Episcopal clergy and lay people in public. I suspect that fear of losing money from conservative Christians and lack of passion for painful issues are at root of this silence. Jones is no different from most Episcopalians who care more about the so-called spiritual life than justice for the poor, the disenfranchised and an end to the wars.

Dean Jones has failed to support his Bishop in two major public events, publicly protesting the wars and supporting the LGBT community in the annual parade.

I again state that Jones needs to resign as dean of the Cathedral since he does not take leadership in the major social justice issues of our time and he refuses to follow the leadership of the Bishop. We need a Dean who will be a leader facing the social, religious and justice issues facing this city and the country.

A Problem: The Very Rev. Alan Jones, Dean of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, CA

Saul Alinsky, late great community organizer used to say, “make it personal….” To raise consciousness and awareness of social and political issues, make it personal, put a name and face on the issue. In the Episcopal Church one doesn’t criticize people by name, one doesn’t make it personal. We respect the person no matter what their actions or stands. Instead we’d rather gossip behind the backs of people, criticize their action and behavior and not confront them in person or in print.

I have long been a critic of Alan Jones, Dean of Grace Cathedral in word and print. On the whole he has run a good show at the Cathedral sine 1985. Attendance is good, the budget gets financed and the building has been completed – sans ceiling – during is tenure. That huge building is incredibly expensive to run and repair but money flows in to take care of it. There are good pastoral programs for the congregation and forums on interesting topics open to the public. Jones has suffered a divorce and prostate cancer and handled both with aplomb. He has remarried.

I like to call Jones the father of “woo-woo Episcopalianism.” He founded the Center for Christian Spirituality at the General Theological Seminary in New York City, while he was a professor there in the 1980’s. He has written a number of books on spirituality. He calls for a religion marked by “felicity.” He is described as bridging the gap between the intellect and spirituality. This three-decade emphasis on “spirituality” has sapped the church of it social justice consciousness.

Now my beef with Jones is the lack of a social justice aspect to his preaching, teaching and ministry. He has never made a public statement supporting LGBT rights. He said in a meeting where I was present that isn’t it too bad we have to categorize people by sex? Now he has hired a number of gay and lesbian clergy and lay staff at the Cathedral, and that is good. He remains silent on the human and legal rights of LGBT in church and society. While he has allowed same gender people to hold religious services of commitment in the Cathedral, he has never spoken publicly supporting the rights of same gender people to marry.

A number of years ago he wrote an article published in the San Francisco Chronicle on abortion. He carefully stated both sides of the issue showing knowledge and sympathy for those advocating freedom of choice and those opposing abortion. He failed to tell us readers what his position was. I do not know to this day.

Recently he refused to follow his Bishop, Marc Andrus, in marching to San Francisco’s Federal Building protesting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have not heard of his making a statement condemning those wars.

He has never marched in the Gay Pride parade in San Francisco along with many members of the Cathedral who do march. This year Bishop Marc Andrus will be the first diocesan Bishop to march in the parade. Jones did not participate this year either.

By putting Jones’ name on these issues, I bring to the foreground that these issues are seldom spoken or written about by Episcopal clergy and lay people in public. I suspect that fear of losing money from conservative Christians and lack of passion for painful issues are at root of this silence. Jones is no different from most Episcopalians who care more about the so-called spiritual life than justice for the poor, the disenfranchised and an end to the wars.

Dean Jones has failed to support his Bishop in two major public events, publicly protesting the wars and supporting the LGBT community in the annual parade.

I again state that Jones needs to resign as dean of the Cathedral since he does not take leadership in the major social justice issues of our time and he refuses to follow the leadership of the Bishop. We need a Dean who will be a leader facing the social, religious and justice issues facing this city and the country.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Listening to Hymns

I love to listen to our CDs, tapes and recordings of the hymns of the church. We have an extensive collection of hymns and church music from Wells Cathedral that has recorded five CDs of the most beloved English Hymns; I have CDs from St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, Salisbury Cathedral, parish church choirs from around the country and world, from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and lots more. In addition we have a collection of Bach Cantatas.

I find I am soothed and relaxed listening to the hymns; sometimes I sing along; other times I hum and just sit back and let the music carry my thoughts wherever they go. I like to play a rousing hymn or two to start the day or when I first get into the car to go off to the day’s activities. I find the hymns truly uplift my sprits.

Choral music is so communal, even when I am listening alone. Choirs of men, women, boys and girls are singing and invite me to sing along.

Recently I came upon a country western group called Alabama and their CDs of the most popular and most corny hymns so beloved by church people for a couple of generations: Rock of Ages, Amazing Grace, I Come to the Garden Alone, What a Friend We Have in Jesus. Normally, I hate the over - pious, sentimental, simplistic words and music. But I just sing along and am sometimes rather moved by the stunning familiarity of such music. At times I wish I had the simple faith and easy religion expressed in those hymns. My own faith is very rational, critical, liturgical and justice centered. I find myself chuckling at the notion of Jesus as my friend. The Jesus I know is a tough - talking New York Jew, criticizing the established order and yelling for peace. What would I do if Jesus were my friend? I’d probably hate him because he’d make me feel cowardly and soft and lazy.

In the Anglican hymns, I love There’s Wideness in God’s Mercy. But I stumble over the line “There is no place where earth’s sorrows are more felt than up in heaven.” The geography of up there, the hubris of saying that our earthly sins are felt more deeply in heaven is charming. But the hymns are expressions of feeling and attitude rather than rational stories.

If the CD is playing hymns of the church year, I love to hear Silent Night on July Fourth or Jesus Christ is Risen Today on Christmas Eve.

Hymns bring sad memories. Oh God Our Help in Ages Past reminds me of the day at The General Theological Seminary in1952 when students carried the casket bearing Fr. Yates’ body out of the chapel. Amazing Grace reminds me of the seventy-two funerals of gay men who died of AIDS while I was rector of Trinity Church, San Francisco, in the 1980’s.

Hymns also bring warm memories. Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee, reminds me of Ann’s and my wedding day.

Listening to a wide variety of church music is a delightful spiritual exercise. It produces thoughts of our Christian faith, a sense of the presence of God in our lives and an easy and joyful recollection of the faith of our mothers and fathers and our own.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Article about me from Paul Moor

My "Sex-Priest" friend Father Robert Cromey
Jun 15th, 2007 by Paul Moor
Technorati Tags: San Francisco, Sister Boom-Boom, pornography, Freedom March, Martin Luther King, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, Woody Allen, Wardell Pomeroy, homosexuality, Alfred C. Kinsey
During my San Francisco years (1982-95), “Time” once began its report on an election there with this sentence: “San Francisco is a tree-house for adult delinquents.”

I believe that story reported the November 1982 election that listed one candidate for the city’s Board of Supervisors as Sister Boom-Boom, with the explanatory addendum one line lower “Nun of the above.” Sister Boom-Boom belonged to a highly visible, almost hyper-active group of transvestite political activists called “The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.” Sister Boom-Boom actually polled 23,124 votes - assuredly nothing to sneeze at. Even the most case-hardened bird-watcher has always found San Francisco something special, truly in a class to itself.

I would never think of calling my esteemed San Francisco friend Father Robert Cromey an adult delinquent, but neither does he fit the mold of what most people think of as even an Episcopal clergyman. Soon after I settled there, I’d heard so much about his Trinity Church that sheer curiosity impelled my first visit. New and solitary in that weird city, attempting a wrenching adjustment after 32 years in Europe, I filled out the visitors’ card in the hymnal rack before me - and it startled me to get a telephone call only a day or so later from Father Cromey himself, inviting me to come in for a personal chat. I found a big, strapping, athletic-looking, handsome man who radiated unforced friendliness. I told him right off the bat that I didn’t want him to get the wrong idea, but I considered myself - the direct result of my Mississippi-born parents’ having force-fed me the strait-laced puritanical doctrines of the Southern Baptist Convention until I left home at 16 for Juilliard - an open-minded agnostic. (Linguistic punctilio stopped me short of out-and-out atheism, which to my way of thinking implies proven certainty that God does not exist.) My new friend gave me an even bigger smile and said: “Think of Trinity as a cafeteria - take what you want, leave what you don’t.” It didn’t take long for Robert and his (previously Mormon) wife Ann to become dear and especially esteemed friends of mine.

This past March, the “San Francisco Examiner” published this letter over Robert Cromey’s name:

“Pornography has a positive side. Psychologist Bill Perry (SF Examiner 3-6-07) says porno is bad for people. I am a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Priest of the Episcopal Church and have found sexually explicit films and videos helpful for people who are sexually dysfunctional. I and other therapists have suggested viewing porn films as helpful in re-stimulating sexual awareness in gay and straight couples.

“Studies of the effects of pornography on adults and even children are not absolutely clear that such viewing is harmful. Porn is a billion-dollar industry indicating millions of Americans buy and watch porn. Few of them can be called ill or criminal.

“Furthermore, images of nude men and women can be very aesthetically pleasing; porn is one way for people to enjoy the human body.”

Yup, I said to myself, that’s my Robert. (Earlier this month, incidentally, “The New York Times” reported that according to the trade publication “AVN” sales and rentals of pornographic videos in 2005 came to $4,280,000,000 - that’s not millions but billions - and $3,620,000,000 the year following, as only a part of “the overall $13,000,000,000 sex-related entertainment market.”)

I’ve always admired Robert for a number of things, among them his repeatedly proven readiness to act as well as speak and write. To cite only one instance, perhaps the most impressive, in 1968, with many Americans all over the country outraged over a particularly brutal racist murder in Selma, Alabama, Robert travelled there to join Martin Luther King in what became known as the Freedom March from Selma to Montgomery, the state capital.

Remember? ”On Sunday March 7, 1965, about six hundred people began a fifty-four mile march from Selma, Alabama to the state capitol in Montgomery. They were demonstrating for African American voting rights and to commemorate the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson, shot three weeks earlier by a state trooper while trying to protect his mother at a civil-rights demonstration. On the outskirts of Selma, after they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the marchers, in plain sight of photographers and journalists, were brutally assaulted by heavily armed state troopers and deputies.

“One hundred years after the Civil War, in many parts of the nation, the 15th Amendment had been nullified by discriminatory laws, ordinances, intimidation, violence, and fear which kept a majority of African Americans from the polls. The situation was particularly egregious in the city of Selma, in Dallas County, Alabama, where African Americans made up more than half the population yet comprised only about 2% of the registered voters. . . .”

In San Francisco, needless to say, Robert has long since become a familiar figure in public demonstrations of all kinds, with his letters frequently published in the daily “Chronicle” and “Examiner”. Acting on a tip, I went to one Sunday-morning service at Trinity featuring Robert’s bishop William Swing as guest preacher. Leading off, Bishop Swing mentioned that this exchange took place (as I recall) annually, when sweetness and light prevailed - temporarily: “the rest of the time we drive each other mad.” Regulars in the congregation around me smiled and nodded knowingly.

Only once have Robert and I ever come even close to locking horns over a religious issue. Religion - the various world religions - completely to one side, I regard as irrefutable perhaps the most famous quotation from that fire-breathing militant old professional atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair: “Religion has caused more misery to all of mankind in every stage of human history than any other single idea” - not Christianity, not Islam, not any individual religion, but the fundamental concept of religion itself. Robert had kind words for Ms. O’Hair as a person, but not for her out-and-out atheism.

So all in all it came as no surprise to me when a book Robert published two years ago bore the defiantly provocative title “Sex Priest”. Perusing it provides numerous little zingers, but for the moment I’ll let one suffice:

“God is love.

“Love is sex.

“Therefore, God is sex.”

(I believe I can quote verbatim from memory one of Woody Allen’s better aphorisms, on which Robert as I know him would probably see eye to eye with him: “Sex is the answer. What is the question?”)

One review of Robert’s book led off with this:

“With his new memoir, Sex Priest, Robert Cromey has done the churches a great service. He has opened up the private and personal life of a priest (his own) with unflinching honesty. He has neither minced words nor glossed over events in describing his own sexual experience.”

One characteristic excerpt:

“Priests are sexual creatures. We masturbate, have intercourse, anal and oral sex, same-gender sex, commit adultery, bestiality, incest, fornicate, enjoy bondage, abuse children, and commit any and all forms of sex known to human beings. We spend most of our time in ministry but we are sexual beings, too. Most priests, bishops, deacons, ministers, mullahs, and rabbis in the world religions are sex-positive in their outlook. We enjoy ecstasy, orgasm, pleasure, and joy in our sexuality. We love to kiss, fondle, and embrace. We enjoy fucking, sucking, and licking.

“We teach others to enjoy their sexuality, too. Joy and pleasure are not the first thing one thinks of about Christian clergy. The pious priest and puritan parson railing against the adulterer, masturbator, and single mother are familiar. Many scream against abortion and birth control. But they are a minority with a good press. Recently, Roman Catholic priests have given sex a bad name by being accused and often convicted of child molestation with altar boys and teen-age girls and women under their pastoral care. Celibacy, a lonely bachelor life and poor training in human relations have caused this blight on the Christian ministry. Sadly most Christian clergy do not speak or teach publicly their sex-positive views. We hint and smirk but fail to be open about our sexuality. . . .”

That passage reminds me of a conversation I recorded in his San Francisco Institute with Wardell Pomeroy, Ph. D., one of Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey’s closest co-workers, while doing research for a paper I published in the German psychoanalytic journal “Psyche”. I quote from my verbatim transcript of that tape-recording when we got around to the etiology of homosexuality:

“‘You’re asking the wrong question. The real question is: ‘Why isn’t everybody bisexual?’ Discussion of that question elicited from Dr. Pomeroy a casual but categorical statement which may well stun and scandalize most Americans. In the best of all possible worlds, with everybody, free of neurotic complications and social taboos, just doing what comes naturally, he said, ‘I think most people would be [Kinsey] twos’ - bisexual, but more hetero- than homosexual.’ Nota bene: he did not say ones - almost but not quite exclusively heterosexual. ‘If you look at other mammals, particularly the higher mammals, you find exactly that. Homosexuality is rampant and available, but they end up procreating and having young. So, mostly twos. I think that’s the way it would be with the human animal.’”

As you’d expect, Robert has his own blog - and here you’ll find more information about his book “Sex Priest”.

Robert and Ann Cromey plan to visit Berlin this September. I look forward to that treat enormously.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Charlie Chaplin and the Widow of Nain

(Luke 7:11-17 Pentecost 2, yr.C

We all remember the picture of Charlie Chaplin’s tramp eating his shoe in one of the old films. It is funny and touching. It is absurd, humorous – but he’s hungry. The little tramp is starving and in desperation he eats his shoe.

Chaplin was accused of being a communist because his film depicted Americans as hungry, working in miserable factories and were employees of despotic bosses.

Then there is that other troublemaker, Jesus.

There he goes again, that Jesus, raising the dead. It is hard to be a believer in this secular world when we go to church and have another weird story of our leader bringing the dead back to life.

Do we take this story literally? What does it mean?
Can we get something from the story even though it is not an historical event?

The widow has lost her son and her money. She is a dead woman with no husband and no son to take care of her. In Jesus’ day a widowed woman was cast out without money, home, food, social security or welfare. The poor became beggars, slept on the ground or in public places. Hunger was the main course in dining. The poor were undervalued, unclean, degraded and expendable. They were kept at subsistence level and controlled.

When Jesus restores the life of the son, he also restores the life of the widow. Her son can support her now. She can eat real food, not her shoes or dirt. She will have a home and family. The both have new life.

Churches down through the ages have had programs to feed the hungry.

My father was a priest in the slums of Brooklyn, NY in the 1930’s. One of my earliest memories was of lines of homeless men lined up in the evening to go into the parish hall of St. Michael’s Church to get free bread and soup which my father hustled from neighborhood grocers and bakers.

Aimee Semple McPherson, a notorious evangelist of the depression era in Los Angeles may have been a charlatan but she also fed the hungry. When the schools stopped feeding children free lunches, Aimee took over the program. When city agencies could not handle the load of beggars, women of Aimee’s Temple sewed quilts and baked loaves bread by the thousands. Her temple fed thousands each day for many months.

Actor Anthony Quinn, then a teenager, said, “During the depression the one human being that never asked what your nationality was, what was your faith, was Aimee Semple McPherson. All you had to do was to call and say you were hungry and within an hour there would be a food basket for you….She literally kept most of the Mexican community…alive.”


The late California Congressman, Phil Burton used to say, “Do as much as you can for as many people as you can and then start over.”

What can we do as a country to make sure no one goes hungry?

Evangelist Billy Sunday said, ”What the church needs is fighting men of God, not “hog-jowled, weasel-eyed, sponged-columned, mushy-fisted, jelly-spined, pussy-footing, four-flushing Charlotte-russe Christians.”

We Christens can stand tall and speak out. We can work the committees or stand on street corners. Write letters and make phone calls.

When I gave food to the hungry, they called me a saint. When I asked why are so many people hungry, they called me a communist. (Dom Helder Camera)

Why do oil companies make so much profit?

Why do we read every month about the salaries of so many new billionaires?

Why don’t we have an excess profits tax like we had in WW 11?

What can we Christians do to help abolish hunger in the world?

In the name of Jesus’ love, end the costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and use the money to help poor countries grow crops.

In the name of the Jesus we can fight to end global warming so lands stop becoming arid or flooded so that crops can be grown.

In the name of the love of Jesus, the revolutionary, we can support a government that is for the people and not just for big business.

Jesus raises the dead to feed a desperate woman.

In the name of Jesus the revolutionary, we bring justice, compassion and love into the world God has given us.