Archive for January, 2009

31
Jan
09

Any Ideas on Giving Away a Church?

I’ll probably need to unpack that title a little.  I was hired, as the minister, to give away the church I serve. It’s not that the congregation doesn’t want it anymore – it’s that they’ve gotten quite small in number – small enough, in fact, that “common” sense would ordinarily dictate closing down and moving in with another church. There’s only basic problem with that – this is the only church found within the community and it’s located close to the center of this particular neighborhood in Schenectady. So, I have been charged with inviting in a whole new congregation who would adopt the church as their own and, in the process be adopted by the current members as heirs of the church. The basic scenario looks like this:  Continue reading ‘Any Ideas on Giving Away a Church?’

31
Jan
09

Luke’s Jesus

Several year’s ago, after finally giving my heart to Christ, I asked several people the question, “Okay, now what?” I had no idea what it meant to be a Christian, and little background from my early childhood from which to cull an answer. Almost everyone, including several clergy, suggested I read the Gospel of John, followed by Matthew, Mark and then Acts. What was it about Luke’s Gospel that prompted people to omit it from a new Christian’s reading list? Historically, Luke hasn’t been a favorite Gospel, which, for me at least, prompts the question, “What does it say that might be uncomfortable to the church hierarchy?” Luke’s Jesus, it seems, was an advocate of social justice, a vehement critic of religious authorities and a harsh judge of the people who rejected God’s “true” ministry. Continue reading ‘Luke’s Jesus’

30
Jan
09

Reflection on Being Like a Child – Matthew 18:1-6

Author Howard Friend, in his book Recovering the Sacred Center, recommends the exercise of describing the church as persons – complete with identities, stories and histories. When I was reflecting on that some time back, this scripture and poem came to mind.

Matthew 18:1-6

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone …” Continue reading ‘Reflection on Being Like a Child – Matthew 18:1-6’

29
Jan
09

God as Mother – Innocence Lost (Part 5)

Continued from Part 4, or go to the beginning and view the Table of Contents.

I will resist the urge to recap the arguments so far. They are here, after all, to find and read in the first four parts. In this section I want to speak of why this topic is important in the first place. Nothing like waiting until the end to do that, is there? Ultimately, what I have to say on this will be based on two central beliefs.

(i) As long as it falls short of idolatry, the image that each of us has of God can serve be valuable for our faith lives. It is one thing to say, “I find an affinity with a male or female image of God that informs my personal spiritual journey,” and a whole different thing to say, “God is male – to say otherwise is blashemy, a sin or whatever.” We have a right to envision God in the way that is most comfortable to us, as long as we remain cognizant of the fact that it is just an image.

(ii) When it comes to public worship or study, however, our personal image of God needs to be left at the door. In this situation, we may be responsible not just for our own spirituality, but that of others as well. To formalize or otherwise restrict public worship and theology to that of our own is to reach the point of idolizing our own rationality, or irrationality as the case may be. Continue reading ‘God as Mother – Innocence Lost (Part 5)’

28
Jan
09

God as Mother – Masculinity Lost? (Part 4)

Continued from Part 3, or go to beginning at Part 1.

EMASCULATION OR UN-MASCULINIZATION OF GOD

Opponents of inclusive imagery and language about God often claim it is bordering on blasphemy, with a significant number of those making the case being women. Proponents cite myriad reasons for its legitimacy. For now, let’s begin by looking at the arguments for the masculine image of God, so we can determine what’s at stake in changing our approach.

Except for Mormons, many who believe there is a God-mother beside the God-father, and some non-trinitarian sects, most adherents of Christians sects believe that the totality of God is wrapped up in the trinitarian formula, “Father, Son and Holy Ghost (Spirit).” To change that formulation, many think, is to attack the very nature of God and to lead people away from the “true” God. Besides the fact that God does not need protecting, on which I hope we would all agree, then what is in need of protection is a tenet of faith – a dogma – a way of understanding God. The way in which we speak of God does not change who and what God is. The tenacity with which people hold onto specific images prompts us to ask, “What is really at stake?” Continue reading ‘God as Mother – Masculinity Lost? (Part 4)’

27
Jan
09

Scapegoating & Spiritual Abuse in Churches (Part 3)

Continued from here.   Go to Table of Contents

Pastoral care in spiritual abuse

Most of the authors, again, describe two distinct groups – those that abuse and those that are abused. While the majority discuss pastoral or secular care for the victims, little is said about the perpetrators of spiritual abuse. Arterburn and Felton, however, seemed to acknowledge the brokenness and victimization of all the participants by providing a short section, after each description, labeled “Hope for the …”. While differences can be distinguished with regard to aggression, intentionality and, to some extent morality, each of the players who stay in an errant or sick religious environment, without trying to change it, can be viewed as victims in need of recovery and redemption. Care should be taken, however, to avoid excusing aberrant behavior, since that can lead to freeing the victimizers from the obligation or duty to recognize and change their abusive patterns.

Continue reading ‘Scapegoating & Spiritual Abuse in Churches (Part 3)’

27
Jan
09

Scapegoating & Spiritual Abuse in Churches (Part 2)

Continued from here   Go to Table of Contents

The others players in the ‘game’ of spiritual abuse

Most of the authors researched consider the remaining players to be persons addicted to a toxic or sick religious system, generally assuming that healthy members would be aware of the problems and leave to find a more nurturing environment. While not all are directly involved in the abusive behavior, all people remaining within the system and choosing not to seek change are, to varying extents, complicit in the illness of the church. Various terms were used to name these people – victims, religious addicts and scapegoats being the most common.

Continue reading ‘Scapegoating & Spiritual Abuse in Churches (Part 2)’

26
Jan
09

God as Mother – Imagery lost (Part 3)

Continued from Part 2. Or go to Table of Contents

Feminine images of God still abound in scripture, as discussed in Part 1. Those images, however, are simply those that have survived the expurgation by 3rd and 4th century “masculinizers” of the text. I know, that’s not technically a word – at least it wasn’t, but it is now. Examples could be used from the texts that were omitted, like the Odes of Solomon, but they are not part of the canon and so would be open to ridicule. Examples of passages still in the Bible have already been covered. To make the point on how images have been expunged, I will simply examine the instance of El Shaddai – Almight God – as the case in point. Continue reading ‘God as Mother – Imagery lost (Part 3)’

26
Jan
09

Liberation Theology and Globalization – Part 5

Continued from here or go to Table of Contents.

A LIBERATION THEOLOGY FOR THE “FIRST WORLD”

A major roadblock to a serious discussion of liberation theologies in dominant culture is the assertion that they are essentially Marxist in nature. This accusation has been proffered by not only “First World” governments, but by the Western churches including the Roman Catholic Church. Since explicating the philosophies of Marx is not the point of this paper, it will have to suffice to address the barest of arguments. First, the West in general, and the U.S. in particular, is somewhat irrational in its fear of Marxism. Marx was, first and foremost, a philosopher – albeit one who believed in praxis. The philosophy of Marx does not line up particularly well with what the West understands as Marxist politics, namely Communism as practiced in the 20th century: Continue reading ‘Liberation Theology and Globalization – Part 5’

26
Jan
09

Liberation Theology and Globalization – Part 4

Continued from here or go to Table of Contents.

THE UNDEVELOPMENT OF THE DEVELOPED WORLD

The dominant U.S. theology of entitlement seems to conflict with not only liberation theologies, but most theologies that include political and social action as essential tenets. Such European notables in political theology as Jurgen Moltmann, Johannes Baptist Metz, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer were joined by Reinhold Niebuhr and John Howard Yoder of the U.S. In his 1972 book The Politics of Jesus, Yoder detailed the biblical evidence which justified his belief, “Jesus is, according to the biblical witness, a model of radical political action …”[1] Disturbed by theological thought that separated Jesus from the political sphere, he attempted to prove that faithful Christian disciples should adopt Jesus’ political approach. Continue reading ‘Liberation Theology and Globalization – Part 4’

26
Jan
09

A Guide to Understanding Gays

This isn’t original to me, either. I just don’t know who to credit.

A GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING GAYS
(prepared for heterosexuals, or neanderthals – you pick) Continue reading ‘A Guide to Understanding Gays’

26
Jan
09

Just for Fun …

… and not original … and certainly not new.

How many Christians or other sects does it take to change a light bulb? Continue reading ‘Just for Fun …’

25
Jan
09

Liberation Theology and Globalization (Part 3)

Continued from here or go to Table of Contents.

USING THEOLOGY TO PROSPER

As in the U.S. women’s battle for the vote, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the ‘end’ of apartheid in South Africa, to name a few momentous occasions in recent social history, change of this magnitude requires partners. In each of these instances of striving for justice, significant numbers of allies within the dominant Western cultures had to be enlisted. Men voted to recognize (not give) women’s right to vote; pressure on East Germany and South Africa from other countries seem to have played a substantial role in changes experienced in those areas. Allies, from within the U.S. and European cultures, are likely to be needed, in the long run, to aid in the battle against widespread impoverishment. Continue reading ‘Liberation Theology and Globalization (Part 3)’

24
Jan
09

Albany Presbytery Votes Pro-GLBT

On Saturday, January 24 2009, the Albany Presbytery voted to approve the constitutional amendment to three sections of the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA). The primary change was to section G-6.0106b, the wording of which technically denied ordination to LGBT people seeking positions as deacons, elders or ministers. Before examining the potential effects on each ecclesiastical level of the church, you might want to check out the old and new wording. To do so, click here.

In some respects, this vote has the potential to have a major effect on the Presbyterian Church (USA), if it approved by 81 more presbyteries. It quite possibly will also be somewhat significant for the local presbytery. But, for the local church, little will change except that leaders will not be able to name a third-party as the reason it chooses not to ordain LGBT elders. The primary impact of this amendment is that it puts responsibility for determining the suitability of candidates for deacon, elder or minister squarely on the church body that approves the ordination – session for church officers and presbytery for ministers. Continue reading ‘Albany Presbytery Votes Pro-GLBT’

24
Jan
09

Liberation Theology and Globalization (Part 2)

Continued from here or return to Table of Contents

THE ECONOMICS OF OPPRESSION

It may be, on one hand, quite right to point out that the general populations of these dominant cultures have neither made the decisions to dominate nor benefited directly in the economic spoils of domination. Actions empowered by monarchs and popes have been replaced by those instituted by presidents, prime ministers and corporate moguls. It may even be true that the portion of the U.S. or European populations that has profited the most is the elite – those with significant holdings of stocks, bonds and privilege.[1] While these things may be true, for the general population to claim no enrichment or complicity is to turn a blind eye to the obvious truths of economy and quality of life. Continue reading ‘Liberation Theology and Globalization (Part 2)’




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That's too bad - I'm so sorry. Oh, well, just try to make the best of it. What you'll find here is a variety of essays and ramblings to do with things theological, social, whimsical and, sometimes, all three. I don't write to get famous - trust me, I've been told how futile that would be - but to express myself. I love to communicate and browbeat - ummm, I mean dialogue - about the things I find intriguing. Since you're here, and the door's locked, why don't you stay a while. There's a page bar under the header with links to information about us - I mean me. Don't forget to tell me what you think - in a nice way, I mean.

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