According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Monday, June 29, 2015

"A Word to the Wise" by Progressive Christian's re: Gay Rights and Marriage

A Pastoral Word to My Conservative Friends
after the SCOTUS Decision on Marriage

by Derek Penwell
Author, Mainliner's Survival Guide to the Post-Denominational World:
June 27, 2015

Writing is difficult.

No kidding, right?

But I don’t mean writing is difficult because it’s hard to find something to say or because saying it well takes a lot of practice. Those things are true, of course.

What I mean in this case is that writing is difficult for another reason, one that’s just as crucial, but much less well understood: We often don’t know how we others will read our words, how they might misunderstand our meaning. We thought we were saying something perfectly clearly, only to find out later that the person reading our words thought they meant something completely different from what we intended.

You know what I’m talking about. You get email from these people. They think they’re being clever, but you walk away wondering if you’ve just been insulted. They probably didn’t mean it that way, but who knows? There’s too much passive-aggression in modern society to dismiss the possibility out of hand, right?

“Of course, you would think that.”

What does that mean? Should be simple, shouldn’t it? You understand every single word in the sentence. But you could read it so many ways.

Of course, you would think that.

Of course, you would think that.

Of course, you would think that.

Of course, you would think that …

Of course, you would think that!

See what I mean? They’re just words, but when you write them, it’s difficult to know how someone else is going to read them.

I sense that some of that same problem is going on right now in the aftermath of the SCOTUS decision on marriage, by people who fear the world is racing past them … probably toward perdition. But racing past them nevertheless.

What do I mean?

Characteristic of many of the posts and pronouncements I’ve read since SCOTUS announced that marriage and the choice of a partner is a right that should be extended to everyone is a philippic/jeremiad/augury/rant/cry-of-despair that goes something like this:

The time has come to prepare ourselves for persecution. Our identity has put us at odds with the culture, which is now going to do everything in its power to punish us. Our commitment to living authentically is going to cost us — perhaps everything — because we refuse to compromise what we believe to be the truth. The dominant voices in our culture hate us, and will stop at nothing to eliminate us. Our jobs, our families, even our lives are now in jeopardy because of who we are. Who will speak for us?

I’ve read some variation on this from any number of conservative Christians, and it pains me. First, let me point out the irony that that paragraph could have been written in the past by LGBT people.

But second, and without irony, let me say that I am sympathetic to the panic of my sisters and brothers who are afraid that the levers of power are now unfairly arrayed against them. I know many of these people. I grew up with them. I learned at the feet of the same teachers as they did. Most of them aren’t hateful. They are sincere. I take no pleasure in their suffering. This isn’t about schadenfreude. That I believe them to be wrong about the issue of LGBT people doesn’t mean that I can’t hear the very real anxiety in their concerns.

But that’s not all that pains me, though. Their distress grieves me acutely because I don’t think they know how they sound when they express their fear of a future in which they’re no longer in obvious control. My conservative friends say these things without hearing what their words sound like in someone else’s ears.

So, I thought I might provide a little pastoral interpretation in an attempt to help people I care about understand why they seem not be getting much sympathy when they point out that they are now the target of potential persecution.

You see, it’s hard for people who’ve actually experienced persecution to take seriously the cries of persecution from folks who’ve been riding at the front of the bus for so long, but who’ve just recently been told that the time-honored seating arrangements have been completely discombobulated — and now the people who are so used to it are no longer assured of a first class seat.

When they hear you decry potential persecution, LGBT people want to ask: What actual persecution have you experienced? Not being able to assume that you’ll automatically be selected the cultural homecoming king and queen isn’t persecution.

If you’ve been bullied or beaten because you’re LGBT, if you’ve lost a job because somebody at work found out that your room mate was something more than the person who shared the rent, if your home congregation has told you that “it might be best if you found another church that catered to ‘your kind,’” if you’ve had grown ups perform all kinds of unspeakable acts on you to help you overcome your “gayness,” if you’ve been watched with an eagle eye because, you know, you probably like molesting little kids, if you’ve had everybody you care about turn their back on you because “that’s what God would want,” if you’ve endured the burning looks of disgust just for holding the hand of the person you love, if you’ve been told repeatedly that you don’t deserve the same socio-economic breaks the rest of us enjoy, if you’ve resigned yourself to living your life alone and without children because you couldn’t figure out how that could ever happen for you, if you have children and they no longer want anything to do with you because you’re such a disappointment, if you’ve lived on the street because you had no place else to go after your parents told you you weren’t welcome to live at home anymore, if you’ve woken up in an emergency room after attempting suicide because you just couldn’t take not fitting in anymore, if you’ve had friends and loved ones killed because of how they were born, then (and here’s the really difficult part) it’s a herculean task to work up much sympathy for the anxiety you feel because you read about some baker with a legal problem in Eugene.

Please understand, I’m not saying you don’t have some legitimate concerns about the pendulum swinging too far the other way. And when it does, I’ll be standing right there with you, because injustice anywhere is an open invitation to injustice everywhere. What I’m trying to help you understand is how you sound to people who’ve lived their whole lives with real fear.

Of course two wrongs don’t make a right. But from these folks’ perspective, the ratio of wrongs isn’t 1-to-1; it’s like 800 gajillion-to-1. Please be a little patient with people who feel like they’ve spent all of history close to last in line while they get the hang of what it feels like to be accorded an equality many of them never dreamed they’d see.

You don’t have to agree with all this; I’m not trying to persuade you to change your mind on this issue. I’m just trying to help you understand how you come off, and how you might actively take the initiative to engage in some healing.

It’s up to you. I’m just a writer.

- Derek

* * * * * * * * * * *

An Evangelical Pastor At His First Pride Parade

by Adam Phillips
Pastor of Christ Church: Portland, an open, active & inclusive faith community for God's glory & neighbor's good.
June 24, 2015

This year, I was invited to attend my first ever Pride parade. Our friend Robin invited us to join her church on their "float" and march the hour-long parade route together. Robin's church has been nothing but inclusive of us these past four months. You see, our 1-year-old new church plant was kicked out of our parent denomination because of our convictions regarding including the LGBTQ community.

I have long affirmed an inclusive theology, believing that our gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer friends, their families and allies should be fully welcomed in our churches. I affirmed their role in leadership, whether it was volunteering at events, teaching Bible study, staffing our children's ministry or helping to serve communion. I have affirmed the LGBTQ community at the highest levels and most mundane levels of church participation, for two reasons: 1) I am convinced beyond a doubt God loves each and every part of us as we are created, including our sexual identities, and 2) we're a new church  -- it requires all hands on deck. You want to come out on an incredible summer day and help make lemonade and stack chairs? You're in.

What I did not realize, however, was the overwhelming sense of inclusion I would experience along Portland's downtown streets and waterfront.

My friend and ministry colleague, Rev. Amy Piatt, handed me a poster right before we joined Robin and First Christian Church in the parade staging area on the North Park Blocks. The poster read:


"As a Christian I AM SORRY for the narrow-minded, judgmental, deceptive, manipulative actions of those who denied rights & equality to so many in the name of God."

I had long since admired that poster, seeing it in Amy's office. But I couldn't believe I was actually going to parade around with it.

You see, for the longest time, I would not be allowed to communicate such sentiment, for fear of the picture being posted on social media. That's how intense the fear was for me in my former denomination, and for so many of my friends and colleagues who remain. "Better to let these things lie unsaid," church leaders would tell us. We were not allowed to preside over same-sex weddings, for one, even though many of us either affirmed or secretly presided over them for years. You wouldn't want a photo of you attending such a gay-affirming event to pop up on Facebook for fear of losing your job. Marching around with an apology on my chest at the Pride Parade? Well, that was the most unfathomable thing of all.

But those fears were meaningless to me now. We had already lost everything: two years of funding, friends, our 'faith family' support system. Best to move forward, step by step, and see what this brave new world had to offer.

It's so incredible to take those steps.

Walking down Burnside Avenue, I realized this was not your typical Sunday stroll. I wore my red church pastoral stole (symbolizing the season of Pentecost) and carried that poster in front of me for everyone to see.

And I meant it: I am sorry for the legions of people who have said, done and prayed unimaginable, exclusionary and degrading things in the name of God. I am. Were these hateful (and not so hateful -- some good folks are just stuck in outdated, callous theologies) people my responsibility? I believe, in some ways, yes. As a pastor, I am incredibly concerned with the flourishing and full potential of everyone. And when someone speaks or does things to denigrate others in the name of God, we must try harder. No matter one's professed faith or disinterest in faith. Because, as a Christian pastor, I believe the good news of Jesus is that everyone is fearfully and wonderfully made, and that we are invited to join in a life of love for the common good.

Heady ideas, I know. But I think that in these days of division, derision and despair, people are looking for better ways and better possibilities.

Anyways, I walked down Burnside and the first parade on-lookers squinted and began to read my placard. I did not know what to expect at first. Did they think I was protesting Pride? Would they accept my apology?

I was overwhelmed by the response. People began to cheer. Many asked me to slow down so they could take a picture. Some wiped away tears and simply mouthed "thank you," or "I accept [your apology]." For the next few miles, cheers and cameras and tears greeted us everywhere we went. I was grateful I was wearing sunglasses, because there were a few moments when I simply welled up with tears and couldn't handle it anymore.

I couldn't handle the acceptance. I couldn't handle the forgiveness. I couldn't handle the small glimpses I witnessed of healing unfathomably deep hurts.

There was only one feeling I had: Pride.

And I think that is the point of Pride, at least for me. People joining together in solidarity to say that "love wins," to quote Rob Bell. Love has the final and enduring word.

Our little float was one of only a handful of church groups out to march for Pride this past Sunday. We were far outnumbered by non-profit groups and corporations. Companies like Nike, Intel, Adidas, Comcast and Chipotle spoke much louder than us. The church is following the lead of others, unfortunately. But I was proud to walk with fellow Christians, apologizing to my fellow citizens, for the ways in which people of God have fallen far too short.

As I shared above, for years, I have affirmed the full inclusion of LGBTQ folks at all levels of the church. But what I did not realize is the full potential of what might happen if LGBTQ folks were not just included (as they are beginning to be in so many churches), but helping us co-create better communities of faith and practice.

For one, there is better music. But jokes aside, inclusion is not enough. What I learned yesterday is that if we truly welcome and include, we will be changed. We will be transformed. Because that's what happens when people are vulnerable enough to step out in faith, show up and share with one another. And have conversations. And take photos with each other. And ask for forgiveness. And build bridges. And seek healing.

Our little 1-year old new church continues to press forward in faith. We're growing bit by bit and rolling up our sleeves for faith and justice. I'm so grateful for the hospitality of established, faithful congregations like First Christian Church, who have included us in their physical space and much of their life together. I hope some of my sisters and brothers in church leadership who remain silent or on the sidelines can muster up the courage to step forward and join the growing communities of faith for inclusion.

But most importantly, I hope to meet some of the folks we encountered along the parade route for a cup of coffee and further conversation. I cannot wait to see what might be in store for all of us, yes, everyone one of us, between now and Pride 2016.

- Adam

photo by Brooke Hoyer

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