Cromey Online

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

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pictures of Three Clerics in Collars each have a caption. See no evil, Hear no evil and Speak no Evil, they are the headline of the article.  The author asks why don’t clergy today stand publicly against the moral evils of our time? Issues like the ruination of God’s creation “this fragile earth our island home” by pollution of the air and water; big banks manipulation of mortgages which have made millions of Americans lose their home; and the wars our nation have waged in the last decade are just three of those issues?

Why don’t we speak publicly about these and other controversial issues?

What stops us from making individual public statements?

Do we think it is unwise to preach about such issues on Sunday?

Are these not spiritual issues?

Do we fear business and military people and their families in our congregation will be offended and leave?

Are we afraid loss of those members will mean they will withdraw their money?

Is the gospel of Jesus not relevant to these issues?

These issues are not the business of the Christian religion!

Are we not sure of our own positions of these social issues?


I would love to hear from my brother and sister clergy about these issues. No one’s name will be used in any response I make to the information I am gathering.


Monday, July 16, 2012

July 16, 2012

"Can Christianity Be Saved? A Response..."

One major reason why liberal Christianity has dwindling attendance is because the liberal, inclusive resolutions passed at the national level never get to the local level. Conventions pass resolutions against capital punishment, for acceptance of homosexuals, and for the environment and peace. They ask local parishes to discuss those issues in sermons, classes and study groups. That does not happen in most churches. Controversial subjects are seldom mentioned on the local church level.

Clergy are not very interested these issues. Most are busy raising money and administering the church and are more interested in meditation, the spiritual life, retreats and quiet days. They also fear offending the moneyed people who support salaries and buildings. So the great issues generated from conventions seldom reach the local level.

Studies have found that people who call themselves spiritual but not religious are interested in meditation, transcendence, peace, civil rights for all, including homosexuals, ecology and community. Local churches do not address these issues. They do not and advertise interests that might be of interest to the unchurched.  Most secular people do not even know that the local churches’ denominations also believe in the same values that they do. They see the church as sex negative and irrelevant to their values.

I know of churches that have weekly meditation groups for their parishioners. However, they do not advertise in coffee houses or venues to let people they have meditation classes.

Ross Douthat of the NY Times (7/15/12) pointed out that liberal churches are not terribly interested in dogma. Neither are those who say they are spiritual but not religious. Arguments about Incarnation, the Trinity and the Virgin Birth are irrelevant to most people.

My view is that if liberal Christianity were really forthcoming and proclaiming acceptance of homosexuals, sexual freedom and peace, people would seek out parish churches. The parishes would flourish,

The rise of art shows, classical music, big rock concerts and even athletic events show an interest in the transcendent, something beyond one’s self, in ardent participation and community. Great church liturgy, singing, beautiful worship and strong preaching fill those needs for many on a regular basis.

All Saints’ Church in Pasadena, CA, has flourished with that combination of regular liberal Christian theology and programs and fine liturgy. St. Aidan’s, San Francisco, is also doing well. Trinity Church, San Francisco where I was rector until I retired, flourished and grew with that brand of liberal Christianity.  There may be others, but I just don’t know about them.

The dwindling numbers of people going to churches is a challenge that churches must face on the local level. The church growth movement has been widely ignored by the main line liberal denominations. There are books and seminars available on how to grow a church. Local clergy and lay people are reluctant to investigate that field.  Church growth studies, writings and methods are regarded as the products of the evangelicals and conservatives.  That is true, but the methods work in liberal churches too.

We don’t need saving. We need aggressive clergy and lay people of the liberal stripe proclaiming the gospel of inclusion, love and forgiveness on the local level.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sermon Against Capital Punishment

John the Baptist was in prison for criticizing Herod for marrying his deceased brother’s wife, Herodias. John was at the mercy and whim of Herod, the leader of the Jewish Roman government. He could behead John for any reason he wanted. That was the law of the Roman Empire at that time in a drunken fit, to uphold his honor, he had John killed to please Herodias daughter – Salome.

Opera, drama, art and song have delighted at the scene of  John’s head on a platter in the hands of Salome while she danced.

We are all horrified, mystified and entertained by violent horror. Didn’t we all love The Sopranoes?

Jesus was also put to death on the cross for proclaiming the kingdom of God.  The Roman and religious authorities interested his message as a threat to the government.

Execution as punishment has been a popular brand of punishment since human beings have judged each other.

I will not go down through the ages giving examples of the uses of capital punishment. History is full of these most brutal tactics to punish alleged crime. Peter the Great of Russia killed two thousand men of his palace guards because a few of them threatened a revolt. The French Revolution saw the guillotine chop of the heads of the king and queen and killed thousands of others merely accused.
George Washington and Abraham Lincoln hanged or shot alleged deserters.

President Obama allowed Osama bin Laden to be assassinated. Drone bombers drop bombs on alleged terrorists, executing alleged terrorists with trial. We pay our taxes for that.

I know many people sitting right here in this church this morning would agree that the president did the right thing. Right or wrong, it was capital punishment. One of the great things about our church and government is that we are free to disagree.

The General Convention has been on record since 1958 opposing capital punishment. Those resolutions are not binding on our thinking.

General Convention of the Episcopal Church opposed capital punishment on a theological basis that the life of an individual is of infinite worth in the sight of Almighty God, and the taking of such a human life falls within the providence of Almighty God and not within the right of Man.  
1979-D004 Reaffirm Opposition to Capital Punishment  

They are guidelines for our conscience.


Thou Shalt not kill

We are called upon by Jesus to forgive until 70 times seven.

Compassion is the ultimate Christian motivation for our behavior.

Here is a statement by the present Pope affirming the Roman Catholic view of Capital punishment:

In a July 10, 2009 statement welcoming Mexico's new ambassador to the Vatican, Pope Benedict congratulated the Mexican government for having formally repealed the nation's death penalty laws in 2005.

“It cannot be overemphasized that the right to life must be recognized in all its fullness,” the pope said. He called upon governments to enact laws and public policies that “take into account the high value that a human being has at every moment of existence,” and added: “In this context, I joyfully welcome the initiative by which Mexico abolished the death penalty in 2005, and the recent measures adopted by some Mexican states to protect human life from its beginnings."

Most Christian churches hold similar views.

Capital punishment does not reduce murders or crime. We have had capital punishment forever. We have had murder and crime forever.

Certainly, we must be concerned for the victims and families of victims. That is our pastoral and personal responsibility but that is no reason to allow capital punishment to be a vehicle for vengeance.

My daughter Sarah, a pediatric nurse, told me once that she may believe in capital punishment for those who abuse, beat, burn with cigarettes babies and young children whom she must care for.

This country and society in general know that many people have been put to death who are innocent.

Lynching mostly of black men has declined but still goes on for minorities and homosexual in our blessed country.

The Communist Party and NAACP defended Scottsboro Boys- 1931.

Ox-Bow Incident is book and a movie about men hanged by a posse. Soon they discovered the person whom they assumed had been killed was alive and recovering from wounds.

A fair trial, conviction and life imprisonment without possibility of parole is one real alternative to taking a person’s life for murder.

Franky Carrillo was
released after
spending 19 years
in prison for a
murder he did not

Obie Anthony was
released after 17
years in prison for a
murder he did not

In December 2011,
Maurice Caldwell
was released after
21 years in prison
for a murder he did
not commit.

Ronnie Carmona Sandoval
supports SAFE CA. Her son was

The SAFE California Act will save the state $1 billion in five years by replacing California’s death penalty with life without the
possibility of parole. It requires inmates to work and pay restitution to the victim’s compensation fund. It also creates the SAFE
California Fund, which sets aside $100 million or $30 million per year for three years to solve more rape and murder cases.

I personally will vote for SAFE in November. I am opposed to capital punishment.

“The death penalty does only one thing well: it degrades us all."

This morning we are in communion with God in the mystical presence of Jesus:
with those on death row.
with the families of people murdered.
with those who approve of the death penalty. 
We are in communion with those who oppose the death penalty.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

I worked my way out of two jobs, happily.

During the 50s and 60s I was active in the civil rights movement for African-Americans. In sermons, writing and conversation I stood for full freedom for all people, no matter what their race or creed. I became especially active in the 60s. A group of San Francisco clergy joined 500 others and were arrested in a sit-in at a Cadillac agency which did not hire any one but white men. The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the National Association of Colored People (NAACP) supported the picketing and sit-ins.

The same group of Episcopal priests, the late Don Ganoung, Lane Barton, Barry Bloom and I joined other San Francisco Clergy flying to Selma, Alabama, in response to Martin Luther King’s appeal for church support after the brutal beating of marchers who attempted to go from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama on a peaceful march for racial justice. Thousands of clergy and lay people from around the country came to Selma to participate in the march. Here is the Wikipedia selection about the marches.

The Selma to Montgomery marches were three marches in 1965 that marked the political and emotional peak of the American civil rights movement. They grew out of the voting rights movement in Selma, Alabama, launched by local African-Americans who formed the Dallas County Voters League (DCVL). In 1963, the DCVL and organizers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) began voter-registration work. When white resistance to Black voter registration proved intractable, the DCVL requested the assistance of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, who brought many prominent civil rights and civic leaders to support voting rights.
The first march took place on March 7, 1965 — "Bloody Sunday" — when 600 civil rights marchers were attacked by state and local police with billy clubs and tear gas. The second march, the following Tuesday, resulted in 2,500 protesters turning around after crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
The third march started March 16. The marchers averaged 10 miles (16 km) a day along U.S. Route 80, known in Alabama as the "Jefferson Davis Highway". Protected by 2,000 soldiers of the U.S. Army, 1,900 members of the Alabama National Guard under Federal command, and many FBI agents and Federal Marshals, they arrived in Montgomery on March 24, and at the Alabama State Capitol on March 25.[1]

I was involved in the March 7, 1965 March. Barry Bloom and others went on the whole march.

After these events, I served on the Board of Directors of the San Francisco branch of the NAACP for a term. I spoke at many churches, was interviewed on radio and television.

Soon the Black Panthers and more radical groups grew into prominence. It became clear that the role of white people was seen by some as interfering in the business of African-Americans. But what was even clearer was that black people became more powerful and wanted to be in complete charge of running the future of the movement. That of course was entirely appropriate.

But it took a while for this to sink into my consciousness. I had seen myself as an activist. I was a little sad to realize it was better for black people to give the speeches and interviews and tell their stories of the struggle. So that was the first time I had worked my way out of a job.

The second time was after my involvement with the gay rights movement. In 1964 I was invited to a conference with ten clergy and ten LGBT men and women. We got to know each other as human beings, listened to our stories and walked in the woods, ate some meals and built trust. From that meeting came the founding of San Francisco’s Council on Religion and the Homosexual. A New Year’s party was  given as a fundraiser for CRH. The police invaded the costume ball. We clergy called a press conference denouncing the police action. At the trial of a few gay men who had been arrested at the ball, the judge dismissed the case and castigated the police for invading the ball. One of the results of those events was that police no longer invaded gay bars and harassed gay men on the streets.

Again I appeared on radio and televisions, as it was most unusual for a cleric to defend homosexuals. As time went on more and more gays and lesbians came out of the closet and spoke for themselves. Gradually the need for straight people to defend and speak for gay people became unnecessary. It was sad in a way to move out of the limelight and let others speak for themselves. But it was meet and right so to do.

Now I am involved in the peace movement. I write and stand vigil against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it will be a long time before our voices will not be necessary against violence and for peace.