God in the midst

It seems to me that a lot of us relish these days after Christmas. As much as we might love gathering with family, exchanging gifts, and sharing meals, there is often as sense of relief that, as we often say, “we made it through” the holiday. We breath a collective sigh of relief and relax a bit.

This, of course, is only really possible from a place of privilege. Some of us enjoy a few days of lighter work schedules and plenty of new toys with which to engage the children. Most folks aren’t in that position. Most people must try to find moments of hope, moments of peace in the midst of often-chaotic lives.

That’s why I find the Christmas story to be such good news: God shows up in the very midst of our messiness, in the midst of our blood, sweat and tears, in the midst of our stressors and our fears. Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. All of us, all the time. And  not just with us, but also continually pushing us to share our love with people, especially people in need.

This prayer from our Advent Study book, James W. Moore’s  Finding Bethlehem in the Midst of Bedlam, seems apt for today:

God of all people and all creation, help us find Bethlehem in the bedlam of our lives. Open our eyes and our hearts to the light of Jesus Christ in our midst. Guide us as we mind the light of your peace, hope, and love. Amen.

Christmas candle

Celebrating Sabbath

English: Jesus Christ - detail from Deesis mos...
Jesus Christ – detail from Deesis mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Excellent words from Father Richard Rohr:

“Christianity is a lifestyle—a way of being in the world that is simple, non-violent, shared, inclusive, and loving.”

He continues:

We made it, however, into a formal established religion, in order to avoid the demanding lifestyle itself. One could then be warlike, greedy, racist, selfish, and vain at the highest levels of the church, and still easily believe that Jesus is “my personal Lord and Savior.” The world has no time for such silliness anymore. The suffering on Earth is too great.

Adapting the prayer Rohr offers as a companion to that quote:

Help us be compassionate in our actions.

Sermonating for Sunday…night!

This Sunday night is the first trial run for a new alternative worship gathering at my church. I’m definitely experiencing that typical emotional cocktail of excitement (We’re doing something new! An idea of mine that others have helped birth!) and nervousness (What if no one attends? What if we suck? What if we think it’s great but no one else does?).

This alternative worship is one answer we’re attempting to the question, What will WUMC do in 2012 to reach people unattached to a church? Of course it could also be an answer for people who are already attached to our church but are looking for a different worship experience than we offer on Sunday mornings. “Alternative” here does not mean all the music will sound like Rise Against or Young the Giant or Silversun Pickups. (Though, personally, I’d enjoy it if it did mean that!) Rather, “alternative” means it will look, sound, smell and feel different from our existing Sunday morning worship services.

What exactly will those difference be? We can’t know yet. Those answers will reveal themselves as we go. I hope. So, we giving it a go. Offering an alpha test. Pitching a pilot. Experimenting. But with an open audience. Anyone is welcome. We’ll offer feedback forms. We’ll evaluate and try again January 8.

As it happens, I ran across three separate posts thinking about these kinds of new ventures. I recommend all three to you. They are certainly informing my thoughts this week.

Darby Jones of United Methodist Communications offers 5 worship trends for the unattached. Money quote: “Constantly question the theology behind everything you do from song choices to the welcoming introduction to when the worshipers sit and where the leaders stand.”

My friend, Steve Knight, asks Are we on the verge of participatory church? Money quote (by Dr. Ryan Bolger):

“The shift from postmodernity to participatory culture means people find their identity through what they create as opposed to maybe what they consume. … Our churches are still structured in such a way that we do it to them, not inviting them to create worship with us. So, if that’s the case, there’s really no space for people who’ve been formed by our participatory culture in our churches.”

Finally, Magpie Girl, Rachelle Mee-Chapman, offers a response to Knight: Why churches aren’t relig-ish. (Even the hip ones.) Money quote:

I’ve been working with SBNR folks for a goodly number of years now, and you know what? I don’t know a one of them who truly feels comfortable in a church. Not an old school ritual-based church. Not a new-fangled pop-music-and-candles church. Lots of people do feel comfy in both of those settings. (Huzzah! More power to you!) And lots of SBNR folks do go to those kind of churches. They just don’t feel especially right-fit behind the double doors. It’s kind of like when you really want sushi, but you are in the middle of a corn field in a landlocked state, so you end up eating chicken-fried steak and eggs. It’s not bad. It fills you up. Other people like it a lot. But it’s not sushi.

If churches are so very interested in making space for the None’s/SBNRs, then why aren’t more of those folks feeling at home there? Because I know a lot of emergent pastors, and I know they are trying to makes space for “the other.” They really really are. So why isn’t it working? I’d like to offer 6 reasons, all of which I’ve observed over several years of working with just such a relig-ish population. First problem, The Other…

One practice we aim to embody in our worship experiment is a more participatory sermon time. But that means I need to provide at least some of what I’m thinking about. Before Sunday. But that means I must have thoughts before Sunday. Didn’t do so well with that this time. But, hey! At least I know what one thing we need to improve going forward!

Here’s what’s on my mind as I prepare a sermon I’m calling, Lifted Up?

Our text is Mary’s Magnificat: Luke 1:46-56. That’s the NRSV. Here’s another version I like called The Voice New Testament:

Mary: 46My soul lifts up the Lord! 47My spirit celebrates God, my Liberator! 48For though I’m God’s humble servant, God has noticed me. Now and forever, I will be considered blessed by all generations. 49For the Mighty One has done great things for me; holy is God’s name! 50From generation to generation, God’s lovingkindness endures for those who revere Him. 51God’s arm has accomplished mighty deeds. The proud in mind and heart, God has sent away in disarray. 52The rulers from their high positions of power, God has brought down low. And those who were humble and lowly, God has elevated with dignity. 53The hungry—God has filled with fine food. The rich—God has dismissed with nothing in their hands. 54To Israel, God’s servant, God has given help, 55As promised to our ancestors, remembering Abraham and his descendants in mercy forever. 56Mary stayed with Elizabeth in Judea for the next three months and then returned to her home in Galilee.

Here’s some notes from The Voice on this section of scripture, notes that I find especially cogent:

Mary is deeply moved by these amazing encounters—first with the messenger and then with her cousin, Elizabeth. Mary’s response can’t be contained in normal prose; her noble soul overflows in poetry. And this poetry isn’t simply religious; it has powerful social and political overtones. It speaks of a great reversal—what might be called a social, economic, and political revolution. To people in Mary’s day, there is little question as to what she is talking about. The Jewish people are oppressed by the Roman Empire, and to speak of a King who will demote the powerful and rich and elevate the poor and humble means one thing: God is moving toward setting them free!

Some thoughts and questions:

Have you ever been disappointed in a Christmas gift?

As a kid, was there anything worse on Christmas than opening up a gift that you thought was for sure going to contain a toy, and finding clothes inside instead?!?

Listening to our choir’s cantata last week, I thought about this scripture when they sang, “the Bread of Heaven fills the needy.” I thought, yes! That’s what God is supposed to do. Like Mary sang, “the lowly are lifted up…the hungry are filled with good things”

Then I thought, but wait… that’s not really the case right now, is it?

  •     Globally, 925 million people are hungry
  •     16,000 children die each day from hunger-related causes. That’s 1 every 5 seconds.
  •     In the U.S.A., almost 1 in 4 children live in households that struggle to put food on the table. That’s 49 million Americans, including 16.7 million children.
  •     Among African-Americans and Latinos, it’s 1 in 3 children.
  •     About half of all American children will receive SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, i.e. food stamps) at some point before age 20.
  •     Among African-Americans, it’s 90 percent.
  •     How about here in our area? 59,000 people go to bed hungry every night in DuPage County, 20,000 of which are children.
  •     In 2011, West Suburban Community Pantry fed 35,500 people, including 15,000 children and over 2600 senior citizens.

So you tell me, are the lowly lifted up and the hungry filled with fine food?

What do we do with this gap between how the world is and how God wants it to be?

What do we do when God disappoints us?

At least one way to resolve this conflict is to reject the note above, to take it out of the realm of the political, economic & social. We “spiritualize” the conflict in order to make it go away. That is, we say – and I actually heard someone say this this week – what Mary proclaims there is what happens in Heaven after you die.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t find that satisfying at all.
In fact, it rather irritates me. Like the author of the note above, I’m convinced Mary was speaking of change in the real world. I’ve often said the Christian faith is inherently political – when our ancestors in the faith declared that Jesus is Lord, they were very clearly saying that Caesar is not. That’s treason!

Today, when we say, Jesus is Lord, we are declaring (or should be) that our nation is not. That capitalism is not Lord. That consumerism is not Lord. That the President is not Lord, nor anyone else who might be considered a leader.

That’s the political, social and economic world. The real world.

Again, what do we do with this gap between the world as it is and the world as it should be?

It seems to me, the answer is us. God seems to work in the world almost exclusively through people.

What do you do with the gap?

I can be bothered. I am bothered.

Earlier this week, my friend, Steve Knight, shared a link on Facebook to a blog post by Ed Cyzewski. (Good grief, that’s a tortured sentence. Such is the destructive power of social media.) Ed writes:

We still haven’t sought the guidance of female leaders as if the integrity of our witness and the reflection of God’s character depended on it. [Read more]

How do we know we haven’t done this? From the Willow Creek Leadership Summit. Ugh. Maybe it’s true there at Willow Creek. For sure it’s true in far too many places.

(Don’t get me wrong: Ed asks good questions, posits true statements, and is on the right side of this.)

But my experience has been quite different. From September 1995 through June 2010, I worked with female senior pastors at Woodridge United Methodist Church. Our district also had three superintendents during that time – all of them women.

It is unconscionable that this “debate” continues in so many churches.

I can’t believe this even needs saying…Of course women can and should lead churches! As pastors, teachers, superintendents, bishops, executive ministers…whatever positions exist, women can, should and must hold them.

Isn’t this beyond obvious? Why are we still allowing arguments about this? The matter is settled: women are people too.

To paraphrase one of the greatest, most powerful episodes of the greatest TV show of all time:

Think about your mother, your daughter, your grandmother, your sister, your aunt, your granddaughter, your cousin, your teacher, your friend, your wife…think about any and all women who’ve ever cared for you or about you. Think about any and all women you’ve ever cared for or about…

If you can look any or all of them in the eye and say to them, “Due to your genitalia, you’re not a full human being.”…then hell, I don’t even want to know you.

Pondering Pentecost

As I continue to prepare my sermon for tomorrow’s worship – it’s Pentecost Sunday! – I seem to have a lot of different ideas swirling through my head. So I thought I would share them with you. Welcome to the chaos that is my brain function!

1. First of all there’s the scripture for the week: Acts 2:1-21.  At the Festival of Pentecost God’s Holy Spirit births the church in the followers of Jesus. The Spirit is made known and she is awesome & powerful!

2. Turning as I often do to The Hardest Question, finds the Rev. Russell Rathbun musing: “The church is born fifty days after the resurrection, (pentecost means “fifty”), which is also the gestation period of crocodiles, goats and green beans. I don’t think too much significance should be drawn from that, but there might be something there.”

Ok, I don’t really know what that means or has to do with Pentecost, but it sure is intriguing, no?

3. This comes, of all places, from an email ad from Paraclete Press (and really, could there be a better source for the coming of God’s Holy Spirit than Paraclete Press?!?)
“What if humanity came together in the light & spirit poured out at Pentecost? …In such a society all people would find their place, neither lost in the collective, nor alienated and alone outside of it. This ideal requires urgency in the age of globalization. Can we live together and touch the Divine?” – Fr. Seraphim Sigrist, A Life Together: Wisdom of Community from the Christian East

4. Pentecost as a disco ball! These thoughts from Steve Taylor via Clayfire Curator:

I shone a red spotlight on a rotating mirror ball.
So not only is the rock on fire, but red light reflects off the mirror ball.
And so as the mirror ball rotates, little red lights move all over the church, all over people.

And at the end of the OT, a prophet named Joel has a dream. That one day every person, old and young, men and woman, can have the Spirit.
And at Pentecost, the dream of Joel becomes real. The spirit falls on everyone in the church.
No longer do just special people get to lit the pumice rock. Now the red light of the mirrorball falls on everyone. Everyone has the Spirit.

(Read more here  Under Creative Commons License: Attribution Non-Commercial)

5. Over on Sojourner’s God’s Politics blog, Julie Clawson taught me a new word: acedia

My first thought was, “We own a vehicle that’s named after spiritual apathy? How the hell did I let that happen?!?” But then I realized that’s Acadia. Whew! Clawson writes:

It’s not that I don’t see tremendous value in contemplation or think that we all need to practice self-care, but that perhaps we need to alter the most basic ways we view ourselves in the world. We are not rugged individuals dependant on getting our own relationship with God right; we are members of the body of Christ, existing in relationship with God and others at all times. Our gifts are meant to be shared eucharistically in community. It is a way of living that the philosophy of Ubuntu that Desmond Tutu writes about refers to. It is living, not for oneself, but as a member of a community where one is “open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”

The last thing the American church needs are more messages telling us to focus on ourselves. Guilt trips and shoulds don’t help much either, for our “it’s all about me” mentality knows how to resist anything that makes demands on our self. It will take a drastic change in mindset to move us past our “I think, therefore I don’t give a crap about anyone but myself” operating system. I think for the church to not only get over this plague of acedia, but to survive it, we must start thinking communally. As Ubuntu thought states, “I am because we are.” We belong to God which means we belong to each other. Embracing that relational identity may perhaps be our only hope.

6. Via Knightopia, Donald Miller tells us we must know our own story.

If you want to change yourself, your community, or the world, you must first understand the power of story. And the most powerful stories aren’t on television or at the movies, rather, they are the stories we tell to each other in the way we live our lives. If you understand what makes a good story, you understand what makes a good life.

Your story flows out of who you are, not who you ought to be. If you don’t know your own story, you are lost.

7. And just what is our story? On the United Methodist Worship blog, Dr. Heather Josselyn Cranson reminds us that God is saving and redeeming the whole creation, not just human beings! Thus we must consider our story in the midst of the whole of God’s story:

N.T. Wright, with much of historical Christianity, is clear about this: God’s goal for all things will be accomplished not by removing what is salvageable from “this present darkness” into some ethereal state, but rather by a new, physical creation in which sin and death are no more.
Resurrection of individuals leaves us hoping for a solely human future. What of the rest of the created order? Indeed, how can humans even be humans apart from our connections with the environment and the other creatures with whom we live and move and have our being? If bodily resurrection is proclaimed in our services without sufficient attention to new creation, can we be said to be proclaiming bodily resurrection at all?

It can help Christians see our calling to work for God’s kingdom both in the here-and-now as well as in the age to come.  And it gives a much-needed correction to our habit of seeing religion, faith, and death in terms of the individual rather than in terms of God’s entire cosmos.

8. and of course, playing behind everything…the soundtrack to my life.

So, who’s ready for an hour-long sermon? Yeah, neither am I, actually. Guess I’ve got some trimming/sorting/discerning to do!

What jumps out at you from these resources? What other Pentecost thoughts have you?

IL gets it right

[Pretty much every week, I write a…something…for my church‘s weekly eNewsletter. Way back when, it was my take on a pastoral letter. Then some time along the way, I started thinking of it more like a newspaper’s opinion column. Now I suppose I think of it as a blog post. Whatever I write for eNews usually ends up here too. Though usually in a slightly different form, edited for the more general audience that I hope is (could be someday?) reading here. Over there it’s called The View from the Dance Floor.]

Pop Quiz time! Grab the nearest Bible and find this verse: “God helps those who help themselves.”

…Time’s up! Did you find it?

I hope not, because it’s not there. While frequently quoted as scripture, it was actually Benjamin Franklin who said it. (As often noted in this space, Scripture actually has the exact opposite to say: God helps the helpless and calls his followers to do the same. But the great divide between those two ideas is a post for another day…)

I thought of that “verse” today because I just discovered that I’ve been guilty of something similar. For years I’ve heard – and repeated – that the great 20th Century theologian, Karl Barth, instructed we who would preach and teach the faith to do so “with the bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.”

Turns out, Barth said some things in that vein, but never actually said that. What kind of in-depth investigative journalism was required to learn this? About 30 seconds of Google searching and then reading. Wow.

As you may have already guessed, I was thinking about that Barth “quote” this week because of this 1A, above the fold, top headline of the week: “Illinois Bans Death Penalty.” (Though today you could make a strong case that the earthquake and tsunamis in Japan have taken over that top spot.)

Excuse me. That should probably read: ILLINOIS BANS DEATH PENALTY. That’s how it was in the print version of this Chicago Tribune’s story. For reasons unknown to me, the online version has a different headline. (For comparison sake, the Sun-Times’ version.)

That’s just huge, huge news; perhaps even cause for (muted) celebration. For we, the people of The United Methodist Church, have this to say:

We oppose the death penalty (capital punishment) and urge its elimination from all criminal codes.

– ¶164G Social Principles of The United Methodist Church 2009-2012

That’s actually the conclusion of the Death Penalty section of the Social Principles. Here’s how we get there:

¶164 Social Principles of The United Methodist Church 2009-2012

The Political Community:

While our allegiance to God takes precedence over our allegiance to any state, we acknowledge the vital function of government as a principal vehicle for the ordering of society. Because we know ourselves to be responsible to God for social and political life, we declare the following relative to governments:

…G. The Death Penalty

We believe the death penalty denies the power of Christ to redeem, restore and transform all human beings. The United Methodist Church is deeply concerned about crime throughout the world and the value of any life taken by a murder or homicide. We believe all human life is sacred and created by God and therefore, we must see all human life as significant and valuable. When governments implement the death penalty (capital punishment), then the life of the convicted person is devalued and all possibility of change in that person’s life ends. We believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and that the possibility of reconciliation with Christ comes through repentance. This gift of reconciliation is offered to all individuals without exception and gives all life new dignity and sacredness. For this reason, we oppose the death penalty (capital punishment) and urge its elimination from all criminal codes.

Offered as scripture references to support the UMC position are:

Matthew 5:38-39 – Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount “turn the other check” teaching on non-violent resistance to oppression and abuse.

John 8:1-10 – Jesus’ response to the crowd looking to stone to death a woman caught committing adultery (with no mention of punishment for the man!), “let anyone among you without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

As you would expect, the Board of Church and Society (which is the advocacy arm of The United Methodist Church), leads the way in turning this statement of faith into action. To the words of the Social Principles and the Scripture references, they add:

When another life is taken through capital punishment, the life of the victim is further devalued. Moreover, the church is convinced that the use of the death penalty would result in neither a net reduction of crime in general nor a lessening of the particular kinds of crime against which it was directed. The death penalty also falls unfairly and unequally upon an outcast minority. Recent methods for selecting the few persons sentenced to die from among the larger number who are convicted of comparable offenses have not cured the arbitrariness and discrimination that have historically marked the administration of capital punishment in this country. We will continue to advocate for the final elimination of this act of barbarism, which has no room in a civilized society, nor in a country that prides so much on its Christian heritage.

And you can sign up for their action network

They also offer a link to Amnesty International, an organization which I support. Amnesty is at the forefront fighting against the death penalty. Check out their take on this story. In that post, Amnesty also offers a way you can add your name to a thank you note to Governor Quinn.

As this Chicago Tribune editorial reminds us, you can add this information to the reasons for abolishing the death penalty. “The Governor’s Commission on Capital Punishment found that the death penalty is most often pursued when the defendant is poor or a minority or when the victim is white.” These racial, social and economic factors alone make capital punishment untenable.

The United Methodist Church has a long history of concern for social justice. Our faith moves us to action. I offer these resources to encourage you to take some time to prayerfully and thoughtfully consider where you stand and why. As always, I’d love to make this a conversation by hearing your responses.

What do you think? Did IL get it right? Does the UMC? What, if anything, would you change about the UMC’s position on this?

 

Can we talk?

I need to ask you a question. It is, admittedly, a slightly impertinent question.

But first, a quick story.

I’m guessing this will sound familiar to many of you. As a dad, there are a number of conversations with our kids that I find myself having over and over. Which is to be expected, right? Our kids are 3 and 5; repetition is an important part of how they learn. (That’s probably true for many of us who are well beyond those ages too!)

One such exchange that I keep having with Joshua, our 5 year old, goes something like this:

Joshua: Daddy, how are we going to ______? (E.g. get to school, be home, go to the birthday party, etc.)

Me: How are going to get there? By driving.

Joshua: Oh.

Me: Joshua, do you mean when are we going to _______?

Joshua: Yeah! When are we ________?

Me: In about _____ minutes/days/months/etc.

Joshua: That’s too long!

This happens over and over. I do not know why, but Joshua just cannot quite differentiate how from when yet. Oddly, it never goes the other way. Josh never asks when when he means how. Perhaps all this is some great insight into human perception of spatial and temporal events and how they are interrelated?

If so, I don’t seem to be smart enough to know what that great insight is.

I do, however, know a different question that’s been vexing me of late:

For any Woodridge UMC’ers here: In the life of our church, how do we have good and deep conversations about things that matter?

For you who aren’t connect with WUMC: In the midst of the varying rhythms of life, how do you have good and deep conversations about things that matter?

Or maybe the question is better asked:

When (or where) (in the life of our church or outside it) do we have good and deep conversations about things that matter?

I’m delighted to say I was honored to participate in four such conversations this week:

  • On Tuesday, members of Team Capital spent long hours asking tough questions about how to refine our building project into what will be best for the church.
  • On Wednesday, our group of alert and bright Confirmands asked excellent, deep questions about the bible, about truth, about God, about Jesus, about interfaith relations…way more than we could respond to in one sitting. But as our time together for the evening drew to a close, one of our 7th graders gave voice to what we were all thinking, “this was great! This was our best session yet!”
  • Later on Wednesday, a small group of our high school students pondered ways they can lead efforts to eliminate bullying from their schools. We tried to define “bullying”, examined online behavior, and prepared for Saturday’s summit with a Lockport youth group on this topic.
  • Then Thursday, representatives from Small Miracles Preschool Board, Youth Council, Trustees and both Pastors met to honestly examine all the logistics and consequences and symbolism and possibilities and concerns regarding the proposed room changes. There was (and is) tension about this. But there is also much hope and excitement.

It was a thrill and a joy (and a bit exhausting) to be a part of those conversations. They fed my soul and I appreciate all who were involved. I believe we honor God with such conversations. They help us follow Jesus for they are practices of faith.

But they also makes wonder. How about you?

How (or where or when) are you engaging in deep, life-affirming conversations?

How do we invite more people in our lives to so engage?

Speaking Out: Clergy Against Bullying and Anti-Gay Violence

Thanks to a link on Twitter from Kimberly Knight, I became aware of this Clergy Against Bullying petition. In tone and message, the petition is a companion to my Oct. 10 sermon. I encourage you to go read the whole thing (it’s not that long, especially as joint statement press releases go). Here’s the opening ‘graph:

As leaders of Christian communions and national networks, we speak with heavy hearts because of the bullying, suicides and hate crimes that have shocked this country and called all faith communities into accountability for our words or our silence. We speak with hopeful hearts, believing that change and healing are possible, and call on our colleagues in the Church Universal to join us in working to end the violence and hatred against our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters.

Of course I signed right away. I hope you will too. Don’t let the “leaders of national network” thing scare you. We need all people of faith to add their voice, to break the silence, to “work to end violence and hatred against our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender sisters and brothers.”

Sisters and brothers who, “each in their own way faced bullying and harassment or struggled with messages of religion and culture that made them fear the consequences of being who they were.”

I have been guilty of remaining silent. I have been guilty of being too worried about possible negative responses to say unequivocally that the God I know and love in Jesus the Liberating King is love. That the God I know and love and follow loves all human beings like a parent loves her child – including all our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender sisters and brothers.

In my sermon last week and in signing this petition and writing about it here, I am attempting to end that silence or ambiguity forever. I will strive to no longer abide in privileged silence. I am out as an ally for the LGBTQ community. I hope that doesn’t sound condescending. I don’t want it to be.

That is why, to me, this is the best piece of the statement:

We, as leaders of faith, write today to say we must hold ourselves accountable, and we must hold our colleagues in the ministry, accountable for the times, whether by our silence or our proclamations, our inaction or our action, we have fueled the kinds of beliefs that make it possible for people to justify violence in the name of faith. Condemning and judging people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity can have deadly consequences, both for the victims of hate crimes and those who commit them.

There is no excuse for inspiring or condoning violence against any of our human family. We may not all agree on what the Bible says or doesn’t say about sexuality, including homosexuality, but this we do agree on: The Bible says, “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God and God in them.” Abiding in love – together – is the rule we must all preach, teach, and seek to live by.

People of faith must realize that if teens feel they will be judged by their church, rejected by their families and bullied by their peers, they may have nowhere to turn.

Too many things go unspoken in our communities. It’s time to talk openly and honestly about the diversity of God’s creation and the gift of various sexual orientations and gender identities – and to do that in a way that makes it safe for people to disagree and still abide in love.

Finally, a couple of thoughts on who else has signed this. And who has not.

I’m thrilled to see The Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, Moderator, 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), signed. I don’t know Bruce personally, but I follow him on Twitter and find him to be an excellent voice for peace and justice.

As one who has called a United Methodist congregation both “office” and “home” for 15 years, I’m proud to see these names:

The Rev. Neal Christie, Assistant General Secretary of the United Methodist Board of Church & Society

The Rev. Cynthia Abrams , Program Director, General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church

Linda Bales Todd, Director, General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist ChurchRelated Articles

I met Neal Christie last year so I know he is a good and vocal advocate for justice, a man with a real heart for God. The Board of Church & Society is the advocacy arm of the United Methodist Church, so it is no surprise to find other names from that Board on here.

But I must say I’m disappoint that no one from my church home, the American Baptist Church (ABC-USA), has signed. I know that justice and advocacy is important to the denomination. Their complete absence from this document is noticeable and shameful.  ABC friends, we can and must do better!

Let us join together and make this our pledge and our prayer:

We want our children and the children of the communities we serve to grow up knowing that God loves all of us and that without exception, bullying and harassment, making fun of someone for perceived differences, and taunting and harming others is wrong. The Golden Rule is still the rule we want to live by.

 

My sermon from Oct. 10, 2010: Settling In & Coming Out

As I wrote previously, the sermon I gave at my church (Woodridge UMC) garnered quite the reaction. I’ve never been more scared about the possible reaction to a sermon. I’ve never been more gratified by a response.

6 dead kids is 6 too many. Anti-gay bullying must stop. All bullying must stop. Every human being is a beloved child of God. You are not alone. I’m coming out as a LGBTQ ally!

Here’s part one, the set up and the disclaimer:

Now part two, the good stuff: