Posts Tagged ‘Church



10
Jul
09

The Community that is Soulforce

Two and a half years ago, as I was wasting away in deepest rural Iowa, I had an epiphanic experience. Jenna and I needed some time away from people just like us – white, middle class, middle income, heterosexuals living all together in a community of less than 1,000 people. In actually, we weren’t just like them, which people suspected and then decided it must be that we are strange. And, evidently, they weren’t wrong. Anyway, we went to a Holy Relationships conference in Iowa City, and there met Rev Dr Mel White who was one of the speakers. We also heard about Soulforce.org – a group Mel started to engage in non-violent activism for GLBT causes – especially for those damaged by churches. That day was pivotal for my survival – it saved my mind, if not my life. Continue reading ‘The Community that is Soulforce’

03
Jul
09

Scapegoating & Spiritual Abuse in Churches – Scattering the flock (Part 1)

While a church administrator, I had the unfortunate experience of witnessing profoundly disturbing spiritual abuse – not just once, but twice. In one instance, the abuser was a thirty-something-year pastor intent on maintaining control of what had become his church. In the other, the pastor was the victim of two elders who happened to be related to the former long-term pastor. In both cases, while there were the primary targets of the abuse, there was a system wide fallout upon many other victims. Both churches are recovering, but remain shadows of their former selves. As a result, and after much research, I am offering this paper. Continue reading ‘Scapegoating & Spiritual Abuse in Churches – Scattering the flock (Part 1)’

03
Jul
09

Idolizing Wealth – Luke 12:12-21

Jesus is asked to intervene in an inheritance dispute, and responds by telling a parable about greed. Obviously, Jesus has decided that greed is the underlying motivation of the person who asks for their share of the inheritance … and that this is a good time for a lesson about greed in general.

Quite simple, really. Hardly much point in preaching about it, since it’s just so obvious, eh?

There is more here than is initially apparent, however. To find it we have to delve a little deeper into the text. And my job is to do that without turning this sermon into a geek fest of language and theological study that leaves you groping for the exit door in a bored stupor. We’ll see how I do.

There are many patterns in Luke, but one in particular is how Jesus answers questions. Rarely does Jesus give direct answers to direct questions. Jesus generally answers a question with either another question or a parable, and many times with both… and it strikes me that Jesus does this so people can learn to discern their own answers. Continue reading ‘Idolizing Wealth – Luke 12:12-21’

29
Jun
09

God as Mother – More traditional than you might think

As a preface to this series, I would like to be open about my journey with feminist interpretation and theology. Because of my terrible relationship with my father, I could not grasp nor find comfort in the image of Father God, which is the language I grew up with. “Father” and “God” were not words that could go together, since “father” was the equivalent of abuser, torturer and imprisoner – concepts I could not reconcile with my concept of God. As a result, I spent a long time away from church. As I was being pulled back into church by God, I had to somehow deal with my cognitive dissonance. What helped me immensely were materials normally reserved for women who have experienced sexual abuse by a father or father-figure. I then began an amateur study of feminist and womanist theologies. Several years later, when I started seminary, I met the woman who is now my wife, Rev Jenna Zirbel. She was two years ahead of me in seminary and lightyears in thinking. 

ORTHODOXY – GOD THE FATHER, FATHER GOD, FATHER

Modern orthodoxy views God as male – basically through the various characteristics of Father-hood.  I don’t know about you, but my childhood recollections of God were as an old, white man with a flowing pure white beard, long white hair and distinctly European features. I always thought this must be the way the Bible describes God. Imagine my surprise when I found out that nowhere in scripture is God ever described like that. Continue reading ‘God as Mother – More traditional than you might think’

27
Jun
09

Jesus Save Me From Religiosity

Lately, I’ve developed a renewed appreciation for Jethro Tull – a band hailing back to my drug-crazed youth. Back then, I never actually heard the words, just loved the music. While some lyrics are certainly cynical, two songs in particular call out to me right now – My God and Hymn 43. Below are the transcribed words and video of each. In the case of the live performance of My God, the differences between the recorded version and live version are in italics and brackets. The live version of Hymn 43 is a remarkable (in my opinion) remake of the original by Tull and I hope you like it as well.

Enjoy – I certainly do. Continue reading ‘Jesus Save Me From Religiosity’

26
Jun
09

Addendum to “Oooh – You’re Bipolar”

The original article can be read here.

The last few months have been particularly interesting.  My church, which had decided to close anyway, and my denominational leaders, decided medical leave was necessary because of a particularly bad time I was going through. At first, I resisted. I have always fought to keep my sanity and remain stable – it was a battle of wills which I won more often than not. My father gave into his mental illness and I was vehement about not doing the same thing.

After receiving the notice that not only was I on three months medical leave, but also was “terminated” after that period, I decided my previous approach to mental health was not going to work this time around – I was in too deep. Continue reading ‘Addendum to “Oooh – You’re Bipolar”’

21
Jun
09

The Bread of Life IV

I am having difficulty settling on a sermon for the third section of John 6, so I have decided to move into the fourth segment of John’s continuing Bread of Life discourse. The text for this is John 6:51-58. The sermon for John 6:1-21 can be found here and John 6:22-36 here.

If we read Chapter 6 superficially, it sounds like many, many words saying the same thing. It sounds repetitious and redundant. “I am the bread of life.” Five weeks of sermons saying the same thing.

There are two ways to read virtually any written work, however – literally and figuratively. Most of us don’t stop at the literal wording of John’s gospel – even literal fundamentalists. This gospel defies a literal reading. Jesus is not actually a light, a word or a loaf of bread. We are not literally sheep. The figurative reading, however, can be just as shallow and repetitious – leading many to think that all God expects is to accept Jesus as savior and put him into your pocket as a free “get out of hell” card. Continue reading ‘The Bread of Life IV’

11
Jun
09

Feminist Perspectives on Biblical Authority & Gen 1:26-28

THE CREATION STORY – well, sort of

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1, KJV)” In the beginning of biblical interpretation it meant just that – God made heaven and earth, and then all things in it, in six days. Eight creative processes in six days, with seven declarations of “and it was good.” The exception was the sky, which evidently didn’t deserve a nod of pleasure. Hmm. God made Adam, planted a garden for Adam to tend, made all the creatures so Adam could be entertained naming them, and then fashioned woman from Adam’s rib to be his helper. Of course, we all know how Eve sent all creation on the slippery slope to h… – well, we won’t belabor that point. Besides, it may have had something to do with getting story lines mixed up. Continue reading ‘Feminist Perspectives on Biblical Authority & Gen 1:26-28’

08
Jun
09

oh! you’re childless – a new parable

I’m doing something different. This is a story that will develop over time. I’d like to incorporate your thoughts into it – which means, obviously, you have to give me some. I’ll make it sticky for a while – at least, until I think it’s done.

Kim and Leslie were descendents of the original settlers on Terra – the fourth generation to live on this distant planet colonized by the United States. They had been together for over twelve years – years during which they suffered estrangement from “polite society” and were subject to pointing fingers, pursed lips, derision and even a couple of instances of violence. There was no doubt they did not belong, but they knew no other place, no other home, such as it was. They had long resigned themselves to living on the fringe of Terra community. Kim and Leslie were not alone in their plight, being part of a minority that was ignored in demographic research. Continue reading ‘oh! you’re childless – a new parable’

08
Jun
09

The Economy of God

BUMP – Just because I like this one.

Having accepted the challenge to discuss economic theology with a Presbyterian session of a large metropolitan church, and having overheard in conversation the “ideal” minister being described as a “CEO” type, I began with a simple exercise – one I had presented several times before to different audiences. The exercise takes advantage of the preponderance of business language and processes being used by sessions and boards of religious institutions.

Continue reading ‘The Economy of God’

03
Jun
09

Faith-Based Homophobia: ‘An Appalling Christian Moral Failure’

Lawrence from First Light provided the following article with brief commentary preceding it. At usual, there is no need to add commentary at this point.

You might expect such an evaluation from people in our own community, or from parents, family, friends and allies. But the conclusion comes from an unexpected source.

I’ve spoken about the organization “Faith in America” before, a group that, like Soulforce, attempts to communicate the harm done by faith-based bigotry against TLGB people. And I think I’ve also mentioned “Crisis,” the book compiled by FIA founder Mitchell Gold in support of that effort, which was published earlier this year. Gold has just sent an email alert to friends and members of FIA regarding a review of the book which has appeared — to his surprise — in the publication The Christian Century. The surprise isn’t that this progressive periodical printed the review; it’s that the review was written by a relatively conservative Baptist minister who teaches Christian ethics at Mercer University. Continue reading ‘Faith-Based Homophobia: ‘An Appalling Christian Moral Failure’’

27
May
09

A Personal Journey in Leadership

The attitudes about leadership that I brought into my first church assignment as an administrator were saturated with bias, largely because I equated leading with managing. In retrospect, I had witnessed very few examples of leadership, as I now understand it. I had, however, been privy to and used many management styles, most of which were based on the manipulation of people and situations to satisfy corporate and/or self-interest.

Eventually, I resigned from the business arena because I couldn’t reconcile my role, or generally accepted management practices, with a newly developing worldview after becoming a Christian. After a semi-reclusive period spent building furniture and helping develop small group ministries at my church, I re-entered the public world as a church employee, only to encounter the same management attitudes that had repulsed me in the business environment. On the first night of a class on church leadership some years ago, we listed words describing leadership. If I remember correctly, my only contribution to that original list of words was ‘manipulative’.

Any description of my leadership style will be somewhat nebulous, as I am still processing the significance of concepts contained in various books and discussions and, most importantly, experiences from life in church. This will not be an exercise that ends with my last call.

Continue reading ‘A Personal Journey in Leadership’

26
May
09

The Republicans Have Learned Too Much from Church

The Republicans showing their ass.

The Republicans showing their ass.

Right now there is a power struggle that seems to mirror that which has kept the Christian Church from doing its mission for far too long. There is what appears, on the surface at least, to be a three way struggle for dominance between only two factions.

Rush Limbaugh, in his usual inimitable way, has manipulated being given the mantel of conservative Republicanism’s top dog. He is, as usual, only half right. Vying against him for the same demographic, as if he hasn’t already damaged the party enough while in office, is former VP Dick Cheney. Over and against those with a conservative bent is the more moderate or centrist Republicans represented ably by Colin Powell.

Two against one hardly seems fair, unless the one is Powell, whose approval ratings are better than Cheney and Limbaugh combined. Continue reading ‘The Republicans Have Learned Too Much from Church’

24
May
09

Even the Scottish Presbyterians are more progressive than the PC(USA)

A story from CNN that speaks for itself:

A gay minister at the center of a row about his appointment to a church in a Scottish city said he was “humbled” after the Church of Scotland upheld his appointment.  Scott Rennie rehearses a sermon at Brechin Cathedral in northeast Scotland.

In a ground-breaking move, the church’s ruling body voted by 326 to 267 in support of the Rev. Scott Rennie, the church said in a news release Sunday.

The 37-year-old’s appointment at Queen’s Cross Church in Aberdeen, on Scotland’s northeast coast, provoked opposition from traditionalist members of the church and has led to fears it could cause a damaging split. Continue reading ‘Even the Scottish Presbyterians are more progressive than the PC(USA)’

24
May
09

Twin Sons of Different Mothers

It is hard to fathom, at least for me, how two people with similar conditions can be so very different. To coin a title from a Tim Weisberg album we are in many ways “twin sons of different mothers.”

Not including age (unfortunately I am the older son), we share interests such as cars and woodworking, similar levels of intelligence, senses of humor, music, recreational activities, introversion (even down to Myers-Briggs results). Heck, we even pack our excess weight in the same place. And, as mentioned in previous post, Karl and I are both bipolar.

The differences in our personalities, lives and how being bipolar plays out in our daily existence are somehow perfectly mirrored in the conditions of our garages and workshops. I am left wondering if every person’s personality could be understood and analyzed based on the condition of their garages. Forget the house, the furnishings, the kitchen and the yard! If archeologists a thousand years from now were to delicately uncover our perfectly preserved work spaces, they could peg our personalities down to a “t”. Continue reading ‘Twin Sons of Different Mothers’




... or, preaching from both ends

WELL, HELLO! YOU’RE HERE.

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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