Cromey Online

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

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Trained KIllers

Recently Israeli soldiers have been accused of killing of Palestinian civilians in Gaza. American troops are accused of murdering unarmed civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. Palestinian soldiers often use horrid stereotypes of Jews. The first rule of training a soldier is to dehumanize the potential enemy. If the person you are fighting is not seen as a human being, it is much easier to kill or maim that person whether another soldier or a civilian. Rag Heads, Gooks, Japs, Krauts are common vulgar words in our racist vocabulary. In military parlance those words are equal to the enemy. Probably all armies throughout history have used dehumanizing words to refer to a person who might kill or wound them.

Millions of young men and women in the United States and in countries all over the world are carefully trained to see enemies as non-humans. It is therefore not surprising that military personnel have wanton disregard for human life when they are scared and confronted with the people they have been trained to see as enemies and less than human.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Redistribute the Wealth

I believe there should be a more even distribution of wealth in the United States. Few would argue the injustice that:

Teachers are paid less than the police or football players
Doctors are paid more than nurses or clerics
Dentists are paid more than social workers
Men are paid more than men for equal work

Some people own three luxury homes and many Americans are homeless
Some people eat more in a week than most people eat in a year
Bank executives get millions in bonuses when their banks fail

I really wonder if the competitive spirit would dampen if there was a cap on income? Warren Buffet makes billions of dollars in investments and lives modestly. Would he be less competitive if there was a cap on how much money he could spend on himself and his family? Would inventors stop inventing if there was a cap on much they could take home? Would doctors stop healing if they had a cap n their income? Doctors with Kaiser, in Europe and Russia continue to work while their earning capacity is more limited than it is in private practice the United States?

I wonder if Bill Gates would have been less creative if he knew he had a salary cap? Barak Obama as president makes 250,000 a year. He is not working for the money. Would professional athletes stop competing if there was a salary cap? Would actors, novelists, musicians cease working if there was a salary cap?

What would be the results if people were paid well but not excessively for their work, talent and creativity?

More money would go to pay more people a livable wage.
Fewer people would be hungry and homeless.
Life would slow down. 24/7 would be seen as a sin and not a virtue.
More people would spend more time with their families.
The divorce rate would probably go up – for that very reason.
Physical, mental and emotional health would improve as life slowed down and physical needs were met.
Everyone would have adequate medical care.

I suppose the arts would suffer. No more grand homes, castles and palaces. The arts and architecture we take for granted would diminish. Expensive symphonies, operas, museums would diminish. Painters, musicians and artists would still create.

Theological Reflection

Money has become a God. We bow down and worship before it. It is the item that we spend most of our time and energy thinking about. We spend much of our waking time in accumulating it.

We have given up rest, leisure and worship in order to work around the clock for money.

W have trouble honoring our mother and our father. We live so long we often can’t care for the elderly parent especially if they run out of money. A greater distribution of wealth would help us truly care for our parents.

We pay our taxes therefore we kill and murder or at least tacitly approve of your government and military to do that for us. Money spread around might help people not starve and be homeless and in poverty, which often provoke wars. The poor in Palestine, Ireland, India, south Africa etc have caused revolts that were put down to protect capitalism. Taking care of the needy was neglected in order to go to war. The fascism that lead to WW2 came out of the poverty and degradation of Germany after WW1. Revenge and punishment caused poverty and hunger in that land, rather than spreading wealth and care for the poor and homeless. As a result the war came.

(More later)


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Why Trinity Failed

Why Trinity Failed
by RWC

1. For seven years since 2002 the parish had no program for church growth.
2. For seven years the Diocese leaders and Vestry members looked inward and not outward.
3. For seven years Trinity had no social service or social action program.

During my years as rector of Trinity, 1981-2001, we just skimmed by financially. The Diocese even forgave us $20,000.00 in assessment arrears in the early nineties. Many bequests came to us, which we spent on regular expenses and for some earthquake repair. There was little money in reserve.

The Diocese insisted the parish look inward and go through a process of self-examination and reflection before calling a new rector almost two year after I retired. Discernment is the current buzzword for that introspective activity. That is fine for parishes with a firm financial base and a solid core membership of five hundred communicants. Trinity had neither the money or core membership to spend two years before finding a new rector.

The Bishop made it clear that Rob Droste could not succeed me as rector before the self-examination procedure had taken place. Swing had let other associate rectors or interims succeed a retired rector. Rob would have brought continuity, pastoral care and church growth experice to the parish. But no, the parish was commanded to introspect.

The first interim at Trinity was a disaster. She made abrupt changes to the liturgy without proper education of the membership, was dismissive of clergy volunteers who had served for years and alienated a number of members and friends of Trinity.

Armand Kreft, who loved Trinity and wanted to become rector, was twice passed over by the search committee and vestry of Trinity. Armand had a deep commitment to church growth, had a track record of success at Holy Innocents’ in San Francisco and as associate rector in Palm Springs. The Bishop and Executive officer of the Diocese strongly recommended Armand to be considered for becoming rector of Trinity. While he had been seminarian at Trinity some people decided they did not like him and they blocked his even receiving an interview toward election as rector of Trinity. He was the best candidate I know of to enable a ministry of membership growth, which Trinity so badly needed. New members bring in more money.

The Executive Officer of the Diocese, I am told, discouraged candidates interested in Trinity by saying the building needed a lot of expensive repair. Vestry calls to the said Officer of the Diocese were not returned and few candidates were put forward to the Trinity Search Committee for consideration. Diocesan leaders looked inward to building structure rather than outward to assist in bringing in leadership.

Richard Vettel-Becker happened on the scene and was elected rector and approved by the Bishop. He too was a disaster. He had virtually no parish experience, none in a city. He had been a hospital chaplain for twenty years. He had not attended an Episcopal Seminary, except for three summer months at The General Theological Seminary in New York City. His wife refused to move to San Francisco for professional reasons. She was a tenured professor in Montana. RVB traveled back and forth to Montana to be his wife, tried to develop an arts program, had no church growth or financial experience and was a poor preacher. He was gone in a year. The Vestry again looked inward to discern what kind of rector they wanted.

Then there was another long time with the wonderful David Forbes as interim. David was a good pastor, preacher and organizer of the vestry and congregation. He had neither experience in church growth nor how to be in contact with the unchurched and so nothing was done much in that important area of parish life. He helped in healing the wounds caused by the unhappiness caused by RVB.

After another year or so the vestry called James Tramel as the new rector. Tramel had recently been released from twenty years in prison for abetting a murder when he was a teen. He had never been a member of an Episcopal Church, was tutored in prison by students from CDSP and supported by Bishop Swing to be confirmed, ordained deacon and priest while he was in jail. As Swing was leaving and Andrus was coming in, Trinity’s vestry’s request to approve Tramel as rector was granted by Andrus who hardly knew Tramel.

Since he had no parish experience, he alienated two members the first week he was on the job in a pastoral matter that any experienced Episcopal layman or priest could have worked out. He got rid of me by telling me I could come to church at Trinity but could no longer preach or celebrate Eucharist. I blasted him publicly for treating me in such a disrespectful and hurtful manner. Tramel had no idea how to attract new people to Trinity and reach out to the unchurched. After a year as rector Tramel had inappropriate sex with a person who came to him for counseling. He was summarily dismissed by Bishop Andrus.

I told vestry members that I would be interested in coming back as a short-term interim rector. I thought we could restart a church growth policy. I never heard back from anyone about my offer.

During this time little money was coming in and few new members were added to the communicant list and old members were dying and drifting away.

Bishop Otis Charles as elected interim rector. He was an experienced priest, Bishop, pastor and administrator. He also had little parish experience in an urban parish and no recent experience in church growth tactics. He continued to minister to the existing dwindling congregation and vestry, brought in some interesting preachers and help the congregation face realistically where they were and what was happening to them.

I feel sad that Trinity was not able to continue as a vibrant peace and justice parish, a church growth oriented parish and one that was financially marginally sound. There is plenty of fault to go around. We are a nice-nice church and no one wants to take resposibilty for failure. The two diocesan bishops, the executive officers, the vestry, and two self deluded rectors failed to keep the church of Jesus Christ and evangelism (church growth) the focus of the church. Swing fell to rigid adherence to rules on how to get a rector. Vestry failed to push past the diocesan monolith, failed to seek out and find rectors with experience in growth. The clergy failed the parish by allowing themselves to be rector whilst so ill equipped. Talk about egomania. I hold them all responsible for the downfall of Trinity.

Here is Otis’ letter on the present status of Trinity.

The financial chaos we are in as a nation has engulfed

The first signs appeared with the near crash of AIG during
our Every Member Canvas. We fell $30,000 short of our
minimum goal. In the ensuing months members have lost jobs
and are unable to maintain pledges made in good faith. In
February Meals on Wheels informed us that shortage of
funds requires that at the end of June they shut down the
daily lunch program here at Trinity. As a result, we are
currently $50,000 in arrears to the diocese for payroll

Trinity's future has been at the center of our
attention as a congregation for the past nine months. Many
of you have participated in the on-going meetings of the
congregation. Your participation and input has helped shape
the mind of the Vestry. On Saturday the Vestry met to
address how to move forward.

In a truly Spirit filled day-long session two over-arching
decisions were made:

The first and most painful was the decision to eliminate
all paid positions, with the exception of the Sexton,
effective June 30th.

This means that my time with you as Interim Rector will
end, Robert Gurney's long and fruitful tenure as
Organist and Director of Music will end, and there will no
longer be section leaders in the choir. Brother Karekin
resigned his position as Parish Administrator the end of
February. Part of the challenge and the exhilaration is
learning to function in an all volunteer, lay directed

The second over-arching decision addressed preparing to
Turn the Corner from Then to Now.

The Vestry approved the following resolutions by

As stewards of the parish, the Vestry resolves to approve
the proposed 2010 budgets, "holding the corner"
and "starting from scratch".

The intention as Trinity moves forward is to divide the
operation into two parts: Holding the Corner and Starting
from Scratch.

The Vestry understands that the congregation has inherited
a magnificent and historic facility for which they are
stewards. A separate budget and oversight is being created
to exercise this stewardship in a responsible and faithful
manner. We are calling this Holding the Corner. All
rental fees will be directed to maintenance of the plant.

The Vestry also understands that God has called this
congregation together. God has chosen us. Starting from
Scratch reflects the other half of our stewardship:
nurturing, developing and growing the congregation. For
this there will be a Congregational Development Committee.

These plans for the shaping of congregational life after
June 30th are presently being fleshed out by the Vestry.
They will be presented to the congregation at the 11 a.m.
Eucharist March 22nd. Your input will be solicited. The
Vestry will take this under advisement. Adaptations to the
plan may result requiring further input from the
congregation. On the other hand, you may find them a
useable road map for the immediate future.

Turning the Corner from THEN to NOW is full of sadness for
the loss of old and familiar and beautiful ways of being.
Coming as it does during Lent we can honestly say we are
participating in our Lord's Passion. At the same time
we are Easter people. Those who were at last Sunday's
meeting could feel the sense of excitement among members of
the Vestry in leading the church once again as front
runners discovering how to be church in this rapidly
changing world.

Ive begun speaking of the time after June 30th as
Trinity 5 ? the fifth iteration of Trinity,

In faith,


Where Has All the Money Gone?

Sermon for Sunday, March 15, 2009, in Church of St. John the Evangelist, San Francisco. Third Sunday in Lent. Year B

The King was in the counting House counting out his money. The queen was in the parlor eating bead and honey.” Sexist, except of course if the queen was a guy.

Our nursery rhymes made counting our money a virtue and eating gourmet food a right. Piggy banks were an early toy. As we got older little cash registers were popular. Then there was the mighty allowance and how could we get more and then of course the Christmas present glut.

When my children were young they got so many presents we gave the three of them a present for each of the twelve days of Christmas right up to Epiphany.

Jesus talked more about money than any other topic in parables and stories.

I hear of friends who have face-lifts, tummy tucks and Botox treatments to stay forever young. I usually feel smug and self-righteous and think what a waste of money. Then I guess it is all right if they give 10 % to church and charity then they can do whatever they wan with their money. I’ll bet they don’t.

At a party a well-paid lawyer told me he had retirement in his reach. The stock market crash means he’ll have to work a couple of more years than he planned.

Then there is the story of the truck driver who lost his job, he couldn’t make the mortgage payments and had to move his wife and three kids into a trailer. They gave up their three-bedroom house with a swimming pool.

He and his wife put a good face on it, gave a garage sale and had also to sell some of the kid’s stuff. One buyer bought a boy’s skateboard for two dollars, gave the unemployed truck driver $20.00 bill and said, “Keep the change.”

"Where Has All the Money Gone?"
No one knows where all the money has gone.

Our Judaeo- Christian tradition has a lot to say about money and our attitudes toward money.

Then he gave them His Top Ten Commandments. These include don't lie,
cheat, smoke, dance, or covet your neighbor's stuff. Oh, yeah, I just
thought of one more: Humor thy father and thy mother.

Two of the Ten Commandments have to do directly with money. “Thou shalt not steal.” “Thou shalt not covet.” Stealing is obvious, we think.

But we need to remind bankers, stock brokers, mortgage lenders about the rather common human observation that life works best when you do not steal from others and others don’t steal from you. One reason the ancient Jews jotted down the commandments was they knew we silly and stupid people need constant reminders of the obvious. Don’t steal, beat up your parents, murder people, adulterate your relationships.

If you want to believe that Cecil B. DeMille’s version of how God whacked some stones with a rocket ten times and out came the Ten Commandments, you are welcome to do so. However, the commandments were worked out by human beings in many cultures and got codified for us in the book of Exodus.

The 10th Commandment is subtle and interior. THOU SHALT NOT COVET – This commandment is about inward desire, not actions. The Hebrew word translated covet means to lust after. That inward urge to shop until you drop, get a new boy or girl friend, throw out all the towels and buy new ones, get that extra pair of shoes.

At the offertory we will sing one of my favorite hymns 574.
A line for all of us –“From love of pleasure, lust for gold, from sins which make the heart grow cold…wean us and train us with thy rod.”

This line for bankers, mortgage and stockbrokers “for crafty trade and subtle snare to catch the simple unaware…forgive, forgive, O Lord we cry.”

Our advertising industry teaches us to covet, to lust after, to desire more and more toys. We weak willed ninnies fall for it every time.

I know of a teen-age boy who has 28 pairs of expensive sneakers. I saw them in is bedroom.
Do you know how many shirts I have? Twenty. I counted them in preparation for this sermon. How many do I need?

Many of us have been trapped into covetousness.

Here are the two most radically Christian ideas about money. Jesus says to the rich young man, “Go and give all that you have to the poor.” Radical Christians like St. Francis and St. Claire live in poverty.

I’d like to suggest those are the goals for Christians to live all of life, not just how to live in this turned down economy.

Poverty means living thankfully for all that we have. We live in poverty since we do not own anything. Everything we think we own or possess are gifts to us fro God. Poverty means not being a slave to our money and property. Poverty means we control our lust for more and more and more. Poverty for some means living in community like our Franciscan sisters and brothers who are members of our parish. Poverty today means living thankfully with less money.

Some of our leaders are telling us go to stores to shop - for stuff we don’t need.

I hope private capital and government spending will go to repairing, roads, highways, railroads, transit systems, bridges and our health care system – the infrastructure. That will provide jobs for the many currently unemployed. I don’t need any more shirts.

We need to change the capitalistic system so that people will not be hungry, homeless and be without adequate medical care.

Go and give all that you have to the poor. We are not going to follow that teaching to the letter. It is not a law. Some Christian heroes can do that. But we can do a great deal more to help the poor.

My 83-year friend who is losing his sight says he occasionally gives money to people who beg. He says I do much for the poor or others but I try to be polite to people. Polite may be a way to love.

This congregation supports and staffs a food give away program at on Saturday mornings

We read about the fact that Mormons stock food in strategic locations and it is available to members in emergencies and in New Orleans was among the first groups to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Armand Kreft, a former member of this parish tells his parishioners. “No one who is a member of this church shall go homeless.” A daring statement. Can we do that?

“In Starbuck's this morning,
an old lady wearing a tattered watch cap
started speaking to no one in particular.
“I can’t sleep at night.
I have pains in my chest all the time.
My leg hurts and my children do not love me.”
People waiting in line
hid in their cellphones, looked away
or stared straight ahead.
“I don’t know what to do.
I don’t know where to turn.
My husband died two years ago on the 27th.”
Everyone pretended she wasn’t there.
The girls behind the counter took the next customers.
The line inched forward.
At a side table, a beautiful young lady with matching purple scarf and hat
looked at the old woman and said, simply,
“Honey, please sit down with me,
and tell me your story.”

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Condescending Iran

To the Editor of SF Chronicle's Insight:

Joel Brinkley’s focus on film misses the big picture on Iran. (Insight, SF Chronicle 3/8/09.) His advice to leaders of one of the most ancient civilizations on earth is to “grow up.” He complains that Iran complains about American movies and culture while that country may have the capacity to develop nuclear weapons, as yet an unproven allegation.

I suspect Brinkley’s patronizing column and article is typical of Americans’ lack of knowledge and understanding of Iran’s culture, history and what goes on in that country on a daily and local basis. Human beings live in that country. Men and women go to work, children go to school and universities. There is poverty and wealth. There are parks and museums. People practice their religion. Their politicians are as irascible and dangerous as ours are.

Our writers, journalists and the people on the streets of America need to see the people of the mid-east as human beings first, as real people suffering under governments, as we have in the recent past. When we suggest other people to “grow up” we can also treat them with dignity and respect. They may take us more seriously too.