March 5, 2006
Too good to pass up:
VACAVILLE, Calif. — Four times a year, the Rev. James Tramel preaches via collect call to Berkeley’s Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd.
“The way of Jesus is radically inclusive,” he said one morning last summer. “The grace of God as manifest in Jesus Christ is a grand love that embraces sinners, outcasts and strangers.”
Beeps from taping equipment punctuated his oration. Every few minutes, a recorded voice said: “You are on the phone with an inmate at Solano State Prison.”
Good Shepherd has offered him a job as assistant pastor, but there is a good chance that Tramel will not be showing up for work soon. Tramel, believed by many church officials to be the only U.S. inmate ever ordained as an Episcopal priest, is a convicted murderer.
… He and a friend were convicted of killing a homeless man in Santa Barbara — a crime so infamous locally that homeless activists wore lapel pins with the victim’s dying words: “No, my friend, no!” […] The homeless man was Michael Stephenson, 29.
… Tramel looked for redemption where others have long sought it. He said he pored over the parable of the prodigal son. He pondered the life of the Apostle Paul, who, he pointed out, instigated a murder when he was still “among sinners, the foremost.”
… Tramel has told parole officials that he has led his life to honor Stephenson’s memory. He has sent letters of contrition to Stephenson’s relatives, who refuse to read them.
… [Stephenson’s] father, Edward Stephenson of Newport Beach, has attended numerous hearings to oppose Tramel’s parole. The man he sardonically calls “this Christian missionary prisoner” should preach all he wants — but only behind bars, he has told officials.
Bernice Bosheff, Michael Stephenson’s aunt, has also opposed Tramel’s release.
“Tramel is prison-smart,” she said from her Riverside County home. “He knows just what to say, when to say it, and who to say it to. He’s taken in the Episcopal diocese — and the D.A. is in the same corner.”
… “I know that we Christians can sometimes be dreamy idealists, but as a Calvinist I think I am quite realistic about human sinfulness,” wrote Don Compier, a former professor at Tramel’s seminary. “I’m not easily fooled. James has passed my test.”
I may have bridge to sell him.
TrackBack URL for this entry: