Friday, September 6, 2013

SYRIA: We need to find another way...

We need to find another way. 

I sent the following to The White House and to my Senators and Members of Congress. We have to be better than the weapons we use; somehow we have to find another way, in my opinion. And that is all this is, my opinion. If you share it or don't, either way, please contact your representatives. 

For the record, I don't find the cartoon funny. I remember this response when the then president stood on the pile of rubble of 9/11. With the world at our side, ready to take our lead, we chose a military response, when there were other ways. We are in such a place, once more. I applaud the president for going to Congress; I agree that we need to stop the loss of life and the atrocities in Syria. And, we need to find another way. There has to be another way. We have to be better than what I am concerned we are about to do.

Below is what I sent. Easy to do. Just Google your area's representative and send your comments. I think we have a grave responsibility here to speak out. That, too, is my opinion.

Dear [Senators and Congressmember]

Thank you for your service to our nation.

I am writing not as a person who is "war weary" but someone who is "peace persistent." We need to find another way to deal with Syria. Every vote I have ever placed for an elected official, including my vote for you, has always been to find ways to avoid war and the use of military force.

Surely our political representatives and international influences can do better than to coalesce around a strike that will not solve the problem in Syria. I am hopeful that this buildup is to create an atmosphere for a negotiated settlement. Hopeful and prayerful.

And to those that say we will look "weak" if we do not strike, I say "Peace always looks weak and therein is its strength." The world understands that better than we think, and those who don't will never learn from the violent acts of war. Never have. Never will.

Please do not take us into limited or any other kind of action or war. Find another way...please.

Rev. Raymond J. Bagnuolo

Friday, August 16, 2013

IMHO: We do not belong at the Olympics.

The following are responses to our participation in the Olympics in Russia. It was begun on Facebook, and posted here for more discussion:

Posted Response on to:

I have heard the argument that we need to continue in these games for many reasons, including the work of the athletes that would be "wasted" were the US to pull out of the Olympics because of the Russian givernment's violent stance on preventing human expression of gender in any ways that would "promote" or propagandize being LGBTQ. That said, it is a privilege to represent the USA as an athlete or a member of the Armed Forces. Sometimes, that privilege is called to respond in ways that are unexpected or unwanted. No one trains to compete to boycott. No one trains to serve their country to die. Yet, who we are and what we stand for comes with a price. Trying to nuance the inhumanity of the Russian laws with the immunity of a international competition is weak-hearted, self-serving, and much too far from being the guiding light for all oppressed people that we are called to be. A light that includes our Russian sisters and brothers who are LGBTQ. It is time to draw the line and stand with all those who need a voice against the violence and repression of any such nation, who by these actions should never be referred to as a "host." This USA has no place in these Olympics, except to demonstrate that we are as complicit as those we challenge for not promoting democracy and human rights.
Rev. Ray Bagnuolo, NY

One of the responses from a good friend of mine suggested that the participation in the 1936 Olympics and the outcome where the USA "kicked some ... butt" was important. He references the "Hitler Olympics," as has others to make a case for us to remain in the games. You can read the full exchange at

My response was as follows:

My friend, I always appreciate your comments, but I must disagree with you here. I continue to be baffled by the references to Hitler, Nazi Germany, and the Olympics as indicative of what our response could be in this situation. Trying to make some connection, I will say that I think this argument and the Holocaust-references boil down to a question of atrocity. For some privileged, white, heterosexual folk - the weak international response to a host nation being fiercely opposed to people who are gay may not seem like anything around which to rally in a decisive way. Yet, for people who are LGBTQ, the response might be different. It is for me. And, in the end, I only speak for myself. 

However, because I see the violence that is regularly and horribly directed at gay people - because they are gay, I live with the perspective of perhaps a different sense of atrocity. Enough to disagree with those who say, "Let them play." 

As a nation, either we are the nation we were during Hitler's draconian rule over Germany - or we are different. Had we known that Hitler's Final Solution was being hatched and planned for even at that time - would we still have gone to Germany to play? 

Now, I am not elevating the conditions for people who are LGBTQ to the atrocities of the Holocaust, but you and others keep bringing this up. So, I will ask the question: Do we need to get our hands on the doors of the ovens at Auschwitz to remember that we learned this lesson? And, if we are a different nation, if we are a nation that has the courage we say we do - do we stand up for the least among us to prevent the next worst things that just may happen to concretize your reference?  Do we make it clear that we are a nation that knows that witness is far from a cop out - but an act of deep conviction, pride, and protection for those we say are equal? A witness that makes sure we do not barter away our fidelity or our backbone, making sure that folks looking for such things might find them here, as they might in other countries. 

I am not trying to change any country, their laws or their practices. I am simply saying that something has to rise above expediency - or who we are is mired somewhere other than in our hearts and our history.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Gracious Reunion or Controversy?

Gracious reunion? Controversy? Hmmm....
On the announcement for the PC(USA) Big Tent in August, the three day event is referred to as “a giant Presbyterian family reunion” -- and yet in all of the 10 major conference threads and the 37 pages of event synopses of hundreds of discussions and workshops -- there is not one reference I could find to Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning or even Homosexuality. In fact, I could not find even one reference to the word "marriage." Really.
It seems that the reunion is not quite "out" about welcoming those of us who are LGBTQ, our families, and friends into the formal agenda and discussions during these amazing times. What could that be about?
Mostly what is said is that the gathering is not meant to be controversial. Well, neither are we.
The "Big Tent" agenda seems also to reflect a recently long-awaited Theology and Worship study guideline report on marriage that pretty much avoids the discussion of marriage for same gender loving couples. In fact, even our sisters and brothers who oppose marriage among members of the church who are LGBTQ - even they complained that there was little opportunity in the report to spur discussions in their congregations.
Methinks it is such an agenda and study that is controversial, not the challenges we face to love one another in unity and with our differences. In fact, the latter discussion would be a wonderful balm to the avoidance that has long divided us. That, indeed, might just round out a "Presbyterian Reunion."
Just sayin'...
Big Tent
Marriage Report

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Prayer and Presence and Boston

April 16, 2013
From my posting at

Gay Pastor: Prayer and Presence and Boston

The first time I heard the verse from 1 Thessalonians 5:17 in which Paul says, “…pray without ceasing.” I knew that was probably a good thing to do, but I couldn’t imagine how to do it. All the time? Praying? 

This morning, as we awake to the tragedy in Boston of another senseless act of violence, as we fall to our knees literally or figuratively, again, praying for those whose families and friends stumble forward without their loved ones “who only went to see the marathon!” – and those who will need to live with the scars of yesterday’s acts of hatred for the rest of their lives – we pray. And, it seems that the spreading illness of violence and horrific events that keep coming closer and closer – are bringing us to a ceaseless time of prayer, without respite, not because of our diligence but because we need pray ceaselessly in response to the frequency with which the unimaginable continues to become real.

It is the right response. Prayer works; I don’t really know how. But it does. And, I know that to pray is also to pause, moving closer to God, consciously entering into God’s presence. That is always good to do, even better in the company of others. Prayer and remembering we are in God’s presence heals us, those we pray for, and the world at large. It is always the right thing to do.

Prayer is an action in the best and most difficult of times and all in between. It  leads us to help and toextend ourselves, being there for others in whatever ways we can. It is the most powerful of all our responses  that we too often come to as a last resort. It is the place to begin and from which all that needs to be done follows. It is the language of Love that strengthens and guides us, just as it has been from the first time the heart cried. “God help me! God help us!” It is what makes our responses and actions prayers, in themselves. 

And, it is always loving, never violent in its response.

In whatever ways we come to prayer today, for the victims, their families, their friends – for us all – let us pray without ceasing by living into the presence of God and this power of prayer. And then together, let us act accordingly, so that all that follows is prayer without ceasing.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Loving much

December 22, 2012

Dear Friends,

I heard one of the reporters say that the horrific loss of life at Sandy Hook Elementary School was the worst act of terror and violence we have experienced as a nation since 9/11. I don’t know how we measure such things, but I understood what the reporter meant. I understood because of the deep familiar feelings both evoked: shock, sorrow, grief, the inability to process any of it, and the desire, powerless as it initially feels, to help and change things – to hope we can change things. To believe it: we can change things.

Like everyone else, I’ve been struggling with being part of a society that could get to the point where this could happen. What have we done wrong? Where have we lost, whatever we have lost? And as a minister, I’ve been struggling to respond to the same questions and more that others have of us who serve. One answer that comes easily is that more violence and more guns is not the answer.

From there, not so easy…

I remember the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and remember thinking that could never happen again, only to lose Robert and Martin a short time later.

I remember thinking after the murder of Matthew Shepard that no one could ever condone violence or homophobia again.

I remember the chaining and dragging death of James Byrd, Jr., sure that we would wake up to the inhumanity of racism, segregation, discrimination. Surely, after his death things would change.

And, I could add more…so could any of us. The prayer and hope we have is that out of tragedy some great change of heart and nation and world will come. Something will come of the pain and sorrow to honor those who suffered. Who continue to suffer…

The lives lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School have dulled me. It is the way of mourning, which I feel from this distance – far from being able to imagine the grief of the families and the community of Newtown during these days and those to come. We all now carry the loss of the children and adults with us. Distance, geographical or otherwise cannot be a balm to assuage our own sorrow. As hard as it may be to “stay close” in whatever ways we may – it is our responsibility to do so, or these lives lost will become part of what we once hoped for. That loss has already happened for the families. Let it not happen to us as a nation.

For many of us, this is a time when we remember the birth of a child who would live into and suffer his own great violence. As with so many traditions, the message he carried of peace, hope, resurrection, and a loving God was a radical one and a message that others sought to expunge, protecting their own interests and power. We face some of those same interests and powers now; those who seek to quiet what needs to be done, letting the news cycle add these lives to those too many lost before. Arming and protecting ourselves so that love becomes a quaint idea in an ever more violent world – is not an answer.

For me, this Christmas, especially, is a reminder that Jesus died loving us, knowing that he was loved, and promising the same to all of humanity. It occurs to me that the children and the lives lost in Newtown died loving, as well, filled with their joys and laughter, loving their families because they were loved by their families and their God. There is peace in that truth.

From there, we will all have to search our hearts about what we will do. As part of those seeking welcoming and inclusion in our church and this world for sisters and brothers who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender – we know the violence and marginalization; we know the societal illnesses of others directed at us. We also know that our response has always been to love others, as difficult as that might be, to get to know one another, come together, and discover that what we share is greater than any of our differences. And it begins like that…

Whatever we may do to end the violence and change this society on broad local or national scales, whatever we may do to try and somehow honor the great loss of our family in Newtown and in countless other places, let us begin by loving each other. If there is reconciliation that has been put off – let it be embraced and healed. Let every prayer and act be an act of love and kindness. Even when we don’t get it right, the attempt itself is an act of love. From there, change will happen.

In our faith, we believe that God welcomes us home in the glory of true resurrection. We believe that all those who have left this world, however they have left this world, are embraced in Love and Joy and Wonder beyond our imaginings. They are now with the Child we remember at Christmas, helping us in a different way. A much needed way.

Let us ask God and them, in all the Love they are and all the ways we know God – to be with us and guide us this day and in all the days to come. We have much to do and we are not alone.

In this Spirit and embrace, with these thoughts, promises and more in our hearts, and loving you very much,

Merry Christmas from us all.

Ray Bagnuolo, Minister Evangelist
That All May Freely Serve

Friday, December 21, 2012

Longest Night, Shortest Day

We pray into the darkness
seeking the light
Not expecting to find it…
Hoping that it finds us.
            In spite of us.

Shortest day, longest night:
But – only for us.

For the night it is just that. Night.
                                 And the light, is just light.

It is, in fact, about us.
It is we who call the shadows such, and ourselves lost.
It is we who call the light to us, declaring we are found.

Or are we just seen.

We see ourselves more easily in the shadows than the bright light overhead.
            The human condition?
                        More comfortable with our shortcomings than our gifts?

It is true. Shadows do show more of us than the light, at times.

Shortest day, longest night.

Maybe we miss the light in our sorrow and sadness. The malaise the angst.
Are we hurt – or afraid of being hurt – again.
Do we carry it all, the pain and sorrow, as a bulwark against fear, thinking:
“Surely, no more…”

And then, no matter how much we carry,
                        “there is more…”

Even the light is not welcome,
                For we cannot bear to see the children we have lost.
                           We lift the covers to protect ourselves,
                                   only to imprison ourselves in the sorrow; the sorrow without warmth

 Longest night, shortest day.

It is the time. The day. The juxtaposition of heavens…

There is talk of a child. The birth of the one we await.
There is no talk of this child without his full story coming to mind. 

We know the tale woven with truth,
the annunciation,
the leap in a womb,
a manger,
Stars, one special…
the wise folk, 3. 

A ruler calls for the death of newborns,
                                      Hoping “to get” the newborn

 Longest night, shortest day.
From the shadows of the stable, into the first light,
of his first day,
And we smile, because our hearts smile first.

 The heart that already knows the darkness and the light – chooses Love.
                  For it knows Love above all;
It was loved into being you know,
from the first day the first cell
beckoned the beats to follow.

 How the heart wonders, it must
                  When we will learn its song..
                            When we will resound with its song..

Still, it knows that the one born in the stable,
the Love,
will die a horrible death,
loving even as he died. 

Longest night, shortest day.
It is all about such Love.
There is nothing more to seek; whether lives are short or long.  

There is no other healing power
 more than the Love of God,
the Promise of Jesus,
the Spirit that understands not boundaries of shadows
nor light
nor anything else
– just Love.
It must be trusted, we know.
              We must trust this Love
                        that fears no shadows,
                              no cold, nor the heat of the hottest sun.

There is no balm other than this Love
              that makes longest nights and shortest days;
                           darkest shadows,
                           and brightest lights;
                                   deepest sorrow or most grievous of loss… 
                                                                                                       all pale in its midst.
There is no hope other than this Love and its forgiveness,
            its patience,
                    it gentleness
                      Even when we are not,
 and its eternal presence beyond the ways we count,
the eons we study;
          or the mysteries that engulf us. 

This is the Love --the Peace that exceeds all understanding, 

The Love that seeks us – now;
and is unrelenting. 
                                                           Give in the voice says,
                                                           maybe the heart
                                                                    maybe both.

Move with the Love that created universe and more,
              ask in this way:
Come, God;
Come, Love.
Come; Jesus and Spirit;
God and Wonder;
Counselor and Creator, Come… 

             or ask another way.

And wait; set fear aside;
                and wait.

We are in the advent of Love, always. 

An advent where shadows will lose ground;
 even brilliance will lose its shine;  

for Love will surpass it all. 

As it does now.
As it does always.
(c) Creative Commons 2012 Ray Bagnuolo