Posts Tagged ‘initiatives



03
May
09

Dignity For All Students

I have been asked repeatedly why I am a straight ally of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) sisters and brothers. Whether it is because of things I write, things I say (for instance on the floor of my presbytery) or where I choose to be activist, the fact that I am straight and a minister seem to stand out significantly. There is, at the same time, suspicion and excitement that a straight minister would care enough to be visible in support of LGBT.

Jenna and I ran directly into this while present and active at the Equality and Justice Day put on by Empire State Pride Agenda. No less that a dozen times we were asked if we would allow our picture to be taken and placed on websites or blogs. We also entered into numerous conversations, all concerning the role of the church in oppression and anti-GLBT equality.

One specific effort of Pride Agenda is Dignity For All Students, a bill in New York that seeks to address bullying for any reason including sexuality and gender expression. When asked, I responded that my interest in this is very personal. I was on the receiving end of homophobic bullying in grade and high school simply because I was slightly built (hard to imagine now) and a little effeminate. My young life in school, along with some friends, was hell that left me contemplating suicide many times during my high school years.

While meeting with an aide of Senator Farley to make the case for Dignity, I stated the reasons for my interest and followed up by saying, “We have a moral obligation to protect the most vulnerable, and no-one is more vulnerable than our children.” As an expression of our concern in this issue and the dangers faced by those deemed by peers to be different, Jenna and I will be attending “train the trainers” classes for the Trevor Project, a nationwide hot-line for children and youth at risk and contenplating suicide.

To end of bringing as much attention to the issue as I can, I am reprinting the NY Times commentary by Charles Blow. Continue reading ‘Dignity For All Students’

01
May
09

Unequal Yoke

While this decidedly Christian phrase is usually reserved for marriages between people of different faiths, or a relationship where one partner has no faith, it can really refer to any relationship that should be covenantal. It should be used in church situations in which people who see the role of church as ministry are pitted against those who wish to follow a secular, business model. It should be used in the strained relationships between the various ecclesiastical levels. It most certainly should be used when describing the all too common broken contracts between governments and constituents. In decidedly counter-cultural fashion, I would like to suggest that it applies to all things economic – that, in a just society, all transactions would be covenantal and mutually equitable. Continue reading ‘Unequal Yoke’

01
May
09

The Winter of Our Discontent

A SERMON BASED ON MARK 1:40-45 & 1 COR 9:24-27

“She came out … just in time to see her young son playing in the path of the gray, gaunt man who strode down the center of the well-worn road like a mechanical derelict. For an instant, her heart quailed. Then she jumped forward, gripped her son by the arm, snatched him out of harm’s way. The man went by without turning his head. As his back moved away from her, she hissed at it, “Go away! Get out of here! You ought to be ashamed.” Thomas’s stride went on, … but to himself he responded, “Ashamed? Ashamed?”

“He saw that the people he passed, the people who knew him, whose names and houses and handclasps were known to him – he saw that they stepped aside, gave him plenty of room. Some of them looked as if they were holding their breath. Women, who had at one time chosen to flirt, recoiled from him as if he were some minor horror or ghoul, and he felt a sudden treacherous pang of loss. His inner being collapsed, as it did every day.”

This is an account in the day of the life of a leper. Thomas is the lead character in Stephen R. Donaldson’s series, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, and he is a fictional twentieth century leper – albeit one based on a real person’s experiences. When I read the series many years ago I remember thinking, “People don’t react that way anymore. The world is not that archaic.” But, perhaps it is. Continue reading ‘The Winter of Our Discontent’

30
Apr
09

Mary & Martha – True Disciples

Reading: John 12:1-8 

Stark contrasts and interesting characters seem to be the order of the day for the readings this morning. Sandwiched between passages about life and death, we have a seemingly simple vignette of a dinner party. The hosts and guests of the party are intrinsically related to what has come before and what will yet be.

The setting:

Bethany – the home of Martha and Mary, and their brother Lazarus. There are a few scriptural references about Jesus, Mary and Martha – and most of them include closeness – an intimacy of friendship. Bethany, it seems, was a frequent stop for Jesus and, from what we are told, it seems like this is where Jesus may have come to regenerate – to relax a while – a place to be Jesus the person as opposed to Jesus the Messiah. Jesus still taught – people still listened, but there appears to be a kind of intimacy in this house that draws Jesus.

The story before the reading: Continue reading ‘Mary & Martha – True Disciples’

29
Apr
09

Racism, sexism, classism, et al

The great list of “-isms” could go on and on. As a society, we always tend towards separating – discriminating between people like us and those not like us. In the extreme, it is called xenophobia – irrational fear of the stranger. While it can be argued that cultures having European roots have perfected many of the “-isms”, they are in no way limited geographically. Even the most basic building blocks of society – tribes – were many times based on a sense of “them vs us.” The jury is still out on whether this is an integral part of human existence or a learned trait spanning hundreds of generations. It is clear, however, that it is part of the human condition that we must strive to overcome if we are to live fully in the coming Reign of God. Continue reading ‘Racism, sexism, classism, et al’

29
Apr
09

LGBT Equality and Justice Day – NY Capital

The caucus gathering

The activists gathering

Yesterday, the Empire State Pride Agenda held it’s annual E&J day – a day that includes both political activism and a very visible public rally. The turn out again this year was phenomenal. Having had same-day and pre-registation in previous years, there was already a full roster of activists before the actual day arrived. Anyone showing up on the 28th with the hope of being part of the lobbying effort were sorely disappointed. Many of those did, however, stick around for the rally. Continue reading ‘LGBT Equality and Justice Day – NY Capital’

27
Apr
09

The Theology Behind Church Financial Practices

As a church administrator, I have been asked several times to “review” the procedures of larger churches. It has become my habit to write briefly about the financial systems and procedures, unless of course there are significant problems, and then spend a good amount of time telling the board or session what their financial reporting communicates in terms of theology and praxis. This has been, many times, unwelcome, but I have yet to do this with a church that has not taken seriously at least some of the items I pointed out and begun to take a hard look at their practices.

This report is from a couple of years ago, and is fairly representative. I offer it, not for what it says about this church, but for what it says about the general atmosphere of church “business”. While for some it is inconceivable, I contend that finances may be the truest indicator of a church’s practical theology. In this case, the message communicated was counter-productive to the goals expressed by the Board. Continue reading ‘The Theology Behind Church Financial Practices’

27
Apr
09

Administration Issues in Small Churches

This opinion paper is rife with generalities. Suffice it say that the opinions expressed herein refer to the majority of churches, as opposed to all churches. This, by the way, will be a very untidy post.

 The mainline church in the U.S. has long pursued adoption of “sound” business practices in its member congregations, spurred on by the increasingly rigorous legal and social demands that have resulted from a long and growing list of ethical transgressions. The two most prominent areas of concern are sexual misconduct and financial/property mismanagement. In my opinion, the interest in the first has been spurred not primarily by a sense of protecting and safe-guarding children and people otherwise at risk of sexual predation, but by the financial fallout that may consequentially occur. That which has garnered the full attention of concerned parties is the potential “price” of abuse. Increasingly, changes have occurred with the development of “sound” church business practices that have moved the basic ethical underpinnings of church oversight and administration from spiritual and social concerns to financial matters and risk management. Routinely financial, staff and property management are referred to as the “business” of the church, with the real business of the church – ministry, mission and education – receiving far less attention. Continue reading ‘Administration Issues in Small Churches’

24
Apr
09

Soiled Goods – a Reflection on Acts 8:26-39

Reading: Acts 8:26-39

Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went.

Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah.

 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Continue reading ‘Soiled Goods – a Reflection on Acts 8:26-39’

21
Apr
09

Integrity over Doctrine – A Brief Look at Erasmus

During the Renaissance, an age when tensions and aggressions were rising in the church, many were seeking to cling to their positions of power, prestige and wealth within the ecclesiastic structures. Reformation was brewing, both inside the Roman Catholic Church and outside, and a new age of appreciation for classicism and scholarship was developing. Critical alliances were being created and restructured between various feuding parties and the religious rift called the Protestant Reformation was materializing. Orthodox doctrine and traditional praxis were the most significant religious dimensions necessitating debates, with ecclesiology and sacraments being key elements in the discussions. At risk were the equally important treasures of eternal souls and temporal assets. Within this fray stood Erasmus, a great religious mind, exegetical thinker and biblical scholar, being courted by both sides of the battle but aligning himself fully with neither. Continue reading ‘Integrity over Doctrine – A Brief Look at Erasmus’

18
Apr
09

Still Called to Ministry?

They all had to be a little out of their minds. Asking a church business manager to deliver a message from the pulpit – not even a life-long Christian, but a converted one at that – seemed ludicrous in the least. It had been bad enough giving my testimony in the Lenten service. Not that I was embarrassed to reveal my colorful past. After all, my life was now an open book – all of the torn, ruffled, deeply stained pages as well as the very few that were tidy, clean and still legible. It was one thing to find that my experiences spoke to others’ hearts, and quite another to think I could somehow manage to prepare and deliver a sermon that had any value to a congregation.

Now they really had to be crazy. How can they possibly see a pastoral presence when they look at me? Twenty-five years in business, with nary a thought to scruples or ethics, and they want me to go into ministry. What would God want with one more recovering control freak in the pulpit? I’m positive there are plenty in churches already. Surely, when God touched my heart, changing my life that much could not have been in the picture. I have nothing to offer but my own brokenness and imperfection. I’m just meant to stay in the pews. Continue reading ‘Still Called to Ministry?’

18
Apr
09

The Perfect Pastor Chain Letter

I know this is old, but I recently came across it in my old files and couldn’t resist. If you ever gotten a chain letter, and who hasn’t, you know that you stop the circulation of it at your own peril. There is a price to pay – maybe not the gates of hell opening up, but a price anyway. So, I’m throwing it out there and dumping it on your lap. Should you decide not to continue the circulation – well, let’s just say, “I wouldn’t want to be you.”

THE PERFECT PASTOR

The perfect pastor does indeed exist – you’ve never met them, but you know they are out there. This is a sure-fire way of guaranteeing that you will be served by the perfect pastor, should you have enough faith to do what is necessary. First, just in case you have never dreamed of the perfect pastor, he/she must be defined: Continue reading ‘The Perfect Pastor Chain Letter’

16
Apr
09

Witnessing to Our Own Culture

The reading: Luke 24:36-48.

The women returned from the tomb to tell the other disciples what they had seen and heard – Jesus was gone. They had been told by angels that Jesus had risen to fulfill what had been foretold in the law and the prophets. The women believed. But the rest of the disciples did not believe. Peter went to see for himself. We’re told that he saw the empty tomb and left questioning what had happened. Later it is recorded that Jesus appeared to him.

The disciples were still discussing this when the two disciples returned from Emmaus and related their interaction with the risen Christ. The man they met opened up the scripture – the resurrection foretold in the law and the prophets – he opened them up in their minds. They recognized the man as Jesus when he broke bread with them – they too saw, heard and ate with the risen Jesus. The disciples declared that, “Christ has risen indeed.” The fact of Jesus’ resurrection was incontrovertible – there were just too many people who had seen and heard – too much evidence.

Then in the midst of this discussion – immediately following the declaration that all believed in the resurrection of Christ – Jesus appears to them saying, “Peace be with you.” And, of course, all immediately recognized Jesus as the risen savior – they were all in wonder at this fulfillment of what had been foretold, they all saw for themselves what they knew to be true. Right?

Wrong! Continue reading ‘Witnessing to Our Own Culture’

14
Apr
09

Then Comes New York

A week ago, I asked, “Where is New York?” Vermont’s legislature had just passed a marriage equality bill, and Empire State Pride Agenda’s Executive Director had just made a press release. New York’s legislative bodies, however, have been bandying the notion around, but seemed reticent to bring it to the floor.

Now enter Governor Paterson of New York. After ordering New York state departments to recognize same-gender marriages performed out of state, and to extend insurance and other rights to same-gender partners, Gov Paterson today announced that he will introduce legislation to allow same-gender marriages in New York. The full story can be read on CNN at http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/04/14/ny.same.sex.marriage/index.html.

Citing New York’s history of involvement with civil rights issues, the governor said, “There is clearly a problem in that those individuals who are gay or lesbian who would live in a civil union are still not entitled to somewhere between 1,250 and 1,300 civil protections” available to married couples. We would like to try to address that at some point in the near future.” It is time to start wotking in earnest on our state senators.

11
Apr
09

Post-Christian or Pro-Christlike

“A remarkable culture-shift has taken place around us,” Mohler [R. Albert Mohler Jr.—president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary] wrote. “The most basic contours of American culture have been radically altered. The so-called Judeo-Christian consensus of the last millennium has given way to a post-modern, post-Christian, post-Western cultural crisis which threatens the very heart of our culture.” When Mohler and I spoke in the days after he wrote this, he had grown even gloomier. “Clearly, there is a new narrative, a post-Christian narrative, that is animating large portions of this society,” he said from his office on campus in Louisville, Ky. ” Quoted from Jon Meacham’s The End of Christian America.

My good friend, Daniel, posted a link on Soulforce.org to the above article in order to start a conversation about what “Post-Christian” might mean. Daniel, a former Assembly of God member now more comfortable with Buddha, has an attitude about Christianity that may best be descibed using Gandhi’s statement, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Continue reading ‘Post-Christian or Pro-Christlike’




... or, preaching from both ends

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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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