Cromey Online

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

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Licensing the Clergy

Clergy Need Preaching Licenses Renewed

On NPR radio recently a conservative Episcopal Bishop said “God makes the rules and we are to follow them.” A graduate of The General Theological Seminary, this Bishop was exposed to three years of Old and New Testament critical studies. He passed the seminary courses and the canonical examinations given by his diocese. He must know God did not make up the 613 commandments of the Old Testament. They grew out of the laws and cultures of tribal and agrarian people. He also knows that Paul’s admonitions were not to be taken as universal laws for all people at all times. They were written for specific Christian communities for certain times in their histories. The only law that Jesus gave us was right out of the Old Testament – love God and love your neighbor. In fact, Jesus criticized many laws but upheld the spirit of the law.

Some other Bishops, clergy and lay people believe that God made the rules and we are to follow them. Because clergy have not taught the Bible in a critical way and not preached deeper views of the Biblical text, many lay people of our church are essentially fundamentalists when it comes to interpreting the Bible.

Today, literal interpretations of the Bible are used particularly as tools to prevent gay and lesbian people from being ordained, married and granted full freedom and justice in our church and society. If clergy taught what they learned in seminary about the Bible, lay people would be far better informed about what the Bible is really all about.

God gave us a brain, reason and gifts of discernment to use in all of life including interpreting the Bible. Those gifts are developed in our seminary training, our subsequent reading, courses, studies and the conferences we attend.

These days all clergy must undergo sex abuse training to allow them to continue in ministry and to make sure they do not harm the sheep in their flocks. Likewise, it is time for the church to renew the clergys’ licenses to preach and teach. Every five years all clergy should read certain required books, take prescribed course hours and be tested that they know and understand the fullest and deepest, not the narrowest, ways of interpreting scripture. Clergy need to be held accountable, not only for their sexual behavior, but also for what they teach and preach so that the fullness of the Anglican heritage of reason, tradition and scripture be fully incorporated into their and their parishioners’ lives and thought. Nurses, physicians, therapists and automobile drivers must pass examinations making sure they are still fully equipped to proceed with their responsibilities. The clergy need to be re-licensed every five years.

Local dioceses could set up boards similar to the examining chaplains. National standards for syllabi and tests could be set up by the Bishops and Deputies for the whole church.

One reason the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church face vast divisions is because we have not dared to hold clergy and teachers of the Bible accountable to our great tradition of liberality, reason and tradition when it comes to how we teach the Bible.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Projection as Psychobabble

Projection as used in psychology, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Houghton Mifflin, Boston and NYC 2000.
“a. The attribution of one’s own attitudes, feelings or suppositions to others…. b. The attribution of one’s own attitudes, feelings or desires to someone or something as a naïve or unconscious defense against anxiety or guilt.”

A leader generates a lot of criticism. Every action is scrutinized, especially if such action is contrary to the hearer’s belief or value system. A leader takes the criticism, evaluates it, makes changes if necessary, creates dialogue when possible, and ignores most of it. Criticism is grist for the mill, the very tools to harness to bring about change. Politicians get tons of criticism every day. Clergy get lots of it, too.

There is some California psychobabble that proclaims, “When I get criticized, the critic is projecting her attitude onto me. When I get criticized, the critic projects his own feelings of anxiety onto me. When I get criticized, the critic is projecting her own guilt feelings onto me.”

This is a not-so-clever way of avoiding responsibility for one’s self. “I don’t have to take their criticism seriously, as they are projecting onto me their own anxiety or guilt.”

It is also patronizing to people who dare complain or criticize. Their concerns are not considered important, as they are regarded as mere projections.

Such an attitude also is the blame game. It puts the blame on the person who dares have a criticism. The criticism has no value because it is seen as a projection.

When one says others are projecting on to them, I suppose that person is anxious and guilty. That person needs support.

Projection properly is used in a therapeutic session when the therapist carefully looks at a person’s thoughts and actions and they decide together if the patient is projecting. To talk about projection to people en masse is a misuse of the term and a way of patronizing people as well as avoiding responsibility for one’s own actions or inaction.

-The Rev. Robert Warren Cromey has been a priest of the Episcopal Church since 1956 and has been a licensed California Marriage and Family Therapist since 1971.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Writing and me


I had a realization about my writing just this week. I am writing too fast in order to get the 500 words in. I am not taking time to go slowly enough to polish sentences, to say things with more clarity and in an interesting way. Instead I am hurtling forward to get in the 500 words. So I have decided to slow down and take more time over what I write. I took a wring class a couple of years ago and the teacher suggested then that I slow down,

Since I hunt and peck, I have to have me head down to watch the keyboard, my neck gets stiff very soon. That is another reason I write fast so as to get the words in before my neck screams for relaxation.

I still do not have a book I want to write. I have written a great deal about church, state, sex, homosexuality etc. that I do not think I have much else to say or write without a lot of research. For instance, I have a quite good overview of my theological and ethical views. They are probably 100 pages. To make them into a book, I’d have to research other positions, refute or agree with them. I really do not want to go into the research mode.

I have written so many things that need copy editing and organizing. But that is not what I like or want to do. I am also not so very anxious to publish a book or get my ideas out there much more than they are now. I often think I should hire and editor and just pay to have it done. I don’t really want to spend our money doing that. But I don’t see any publisher taking my radical views as saleable. I look at what the churchy publishing houses put out; I just don’t see anything like what I write about. In many ways Bishop Spong has written much like I have and has already had it published. I don’t have any drive in me to do it.

I also do not feel very interested in sharing my ideas and thoughts about religion with the clergy on my list. I don’t get a lot of response to my writing. There are few places for dialogue or discussion. I think the drift of the diocese seen in the last clergy conference is not of much interest to me. I do not think my views on things are interesting to the leadership of the church and I find I am presently not enthusiastic about the future of the church.

I want to continue to write. I have even thought of turning to poetry where I have to write much more slowly and thoughtfully. The quality of the words and ideas are more important that the quantity.

I have some short-term items to occupy my mind and time. Leigh is coming to visit October 27-29; Sarah may come at Christmas time. I want to put up some more shelves in the basement to clear up the mess by the garage door opening.

I am enjoying cooking more complex menus. I have thought of selling my collection of books of the female form, watching more quality TV and have the feeling right now of wanting not so much of slowing down but of re-focusing what I am doing these days. My relationship with Ann is wonderful so I am blessed with her in my life.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Proposition K on Prostitution in San Francisco

To the Editor of the Bay Area Reporter:

Proposition K will also help male sex workers become a legitimate profession. Arguments on both sides have been mostly about women workers.
Gay male prostitutes can come further out of their closet when Proposition K passes. There are plenty of laws protecting children from abuse - sexual and otherwise.
Proposition K is about freedom for sex workers both male and female.

Control Capitalism

To the Editor of the SF Chronicle:

Now that free market capitalism has again failed the American people. It is time to enact legislation that restricts the activities of big financial firms.
The Reagan and Clinton administrations removed the depression era Glass-Teagal act which put watch-dogs on the machinations of Wall Street.
The United States economy will work better when we return to a controlled capitalist system which keeps the greedy from hurting the needy.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Torture of a Trained Killer

To the Editor of the SF Chronicle:

I for one have little sympathy for McCain's imprisonment and torture. He went to Annapolis, he was and is a trained killer and knew the risks of going to war. I feel bad that he was hurt and tortured but every military person knows that these are the risks of the profession. Frankly, I am tired of his campaign bring up his imprisonment and his alluding to it. His being imprisoned does not make him a worthy candidate for office.

Open Letter to Bishop Charleston

October 2, 2008

Dear Bishop Charleston,

I enjoyed the first night and first morning of your presentation at the clergy conference. I left after lunch the first afternoon.

Here are some reactions to your after post conference meditation. You wrote:

“….That’s also why I kept reminding us that our goal was to discover ways to love one another more fully.

Love is not an easy assignment for us. In fact, it would be far easier to just keep talking about the “issues” and not about ourselves.”

RWC - Talking about issues and more importantly doing something about them are ways of loving. When Andrus got arrested for opposing the wars, he acted out of love for the victims of war and the love of peace. Few clergy or lay people “act” on the issues. When Native Americans and their allies invaded Alcatraz in the 1970’s they acted out of love, a love of oppressed people and a love of justice for people who had been robbed of their land.

I find that we clergy are not very good about talking about ourselves. We talk about facts, ideas, and spiritual insights but seldom about our feelings of anger, sadness, joy, fear and sexuality. No real communication goes on without adding those dimensions of human experience.

“Jesus told us not to fall into that comfortable culture of political correctness, but rather, to get busy in the hard work of loving one another.

If we need a hint about just how hard that is, then consider these few random thoughts. To love another is to be honest with them. To love another means trusting them. Love demands that the other is not an add-on to our own lives, but an agent of change that helps us to grow and evolve.”

RWC- To love one another is tell emotional truth. To love one another means to help others trust us. Love means that we are agents of change and demonstrate that in deeds as well as words.

“Love requires a suspension of our ego and a flowering of our humility. Love is the discipline of listening and the challenge of sacrifice.”

RWC- Love demands that we have an ego to suspend, that humility is revealing the real truth about ourselves and not our “act” or who we pretend to be.

I hope in the days to come you will encourage the clergy to act as well and talk and think. I hope that you will suggest small group ways for clergy to share their real selves and not just their triumphs and failures.

I wish you well in your work and new ministry here in the Wild West.