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Archive for May, 2016


On Dec. 14, 2009, the Associated Press quoted Meredith Fuchs, an official with the National Security Archive, as saying:photo-rove-emails

    “Many poor choices were made during the Bush administration and there was little concern about the availability of e-mail records despite the fact that they were contending with regular subpoenas for records and had a legal obligation to preserve their records.”

This was said in the context of computer technicians finding that a whopping 22 million missing White House e-mails from the George W. Bush Administration were flushed by Karl Rove.

(See the whole 2009 report here.)

Not that anyone in the holy Bush Administration ever played fast and loose with the truth, but Karl Rove–you remember him; he was in all the papers–claimed he “only” flushed 5 million e-mails in the wake of the Bush Administration’s Valerie Plame Scandal.

Some quick context is in order here…

When W. Bush entered the White House in 2001, Rove set up a private email server for use in the White House for raising Republican Party funds. The purported purpose of the system was exclusively for the sort of political correspondence that Bush and Rove were not permitted to do on taxpayer dimes.

It was all fine and dandy under the law as long as the emails were preserved and accounted for.

But it’s highly to extremely likely that Rove misused the email server, using it for communications he assumed would never be made public.

If everything was on the up and up, why would he even attempt to permanently flush 5 million emails–much less the 22 million that in fact disappeared on his and the President’s watch?

I know, I know . . . Karl Rove and W. aren’t running for President.

And I don’t bring this up to excuse anything Hillary Clinton may have done or not done with her ever-controversial emails. I’ve writ here more than once that the whole email flap could have been avoided if not for that old-time Clinton hubris and the Clinton knack for self sabotage.

I mean, Madame Secretary should have been guided by the exposure of Rove and Bush’s email shenanigans and erred on the side of purity and light in all things email-related.

I raise this up because I’m intrigued by history and how it so repeats itself. The fascination of history is that the past always gives us perspective on what’s happening now, today, in current events.

The past never quite dies.

All the cliches have the ring of truth: history shows that the more things change, the more things stay the same; those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it; etc., etc.

American history also shows that Americans have short little attention spans. How soon we forget the scandals and things that disturb us for a week, a month, a year or four years of a presidential term.

But then our candidate, our choice for public office, comes along, and he or she is always honest (or not all that dishonest compared to them).

We can always excuse our favored politician’s dishonesty as him or her being a victim of “the liberal news media” or Fox News and company.

History shows that political Kool Aid always refreshes us and never mind that it might not be as good for us as it appears.

Speaking of Kool Aid drinkers . . .

If the founder of “Trump University” is elected President, we can only hope that his administration will be–to borrow words from the great Republican President honest Ike Eisenhower–“as clean as a hound’s tooth.”

But the history of Trump Anything makes me skeptical at best.

(HT: http://www.PensitoReview.com and my friend Kevin Moran on Facebook)

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The numbers of American warriors who made the supreme sacrifice are all the more staggering considering that for every one death in these wars, many more were wounded or maimed.11218478_866612553375764_7511696163804342152_n

For every one death, scores of loved ones back home suffered enormous pain and grief over the loss: mothers and fathers, children, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.

On this Memorial Day* let’s remember their losses with gratitude, mindful that however necessary war may be sometimes, it’s the closest thing to hell on Earth imaginable not only for warriors but their families, too.
—————–

    *Memorial Day was started by former slaves on May, 1, 1865 in Charleston, SC, to honor 257 dead Union Soldiers who had been buried in a mass grave in a Confederate prison camp.

    They dug up the bodies and worked for 2 weeks to give them a proper burial as gratitude for fighting for their freedom.

    They then held a parade of 10,000 people led by 2,800 Black children where they marched, sang and celebrated.

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In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

— “In Flanders Fields” by Canadian doctor, soldier and poet John McCrae, 1872 – 1918

The poet who penned the sadly beautiful "In Flanders Fields" was John McCrae, a Canadian.

The poet who penned the sadly beautiful “In Flanders Fields” was John McCrae, a Canadian.

As the first shots of World War I were fired in the summer of 1914, Canada, as a member of the British Empire, became involved in the fight as well. John McCrae was appointed brigade-surgeon to the First Brigade of the Canadian Field Artillery.

In April 1915, McCrae was stationed in the trenches near Ypres, Belgium, in an area known as Flanders, during the bloody Second Battle of Ypres. In the midst of the tragic warfare, McCrae’s friend, twenty-two-year-old Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, was killed by artillery fire and buried in a makeshift grave. The following day, McCrae, after seeing the field of makeshift graves blooming with wild poppies, wrote his famous poem “In Flanders Field,” which would be the second to last poem he would ever write. It was published in England’s Punch magazine in December 1915 and was later included in the posthumous collection In Flanders Fields and Other Poems (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1919).

Soon after writing “In Flanders Field,” McCrae was transferred to a hospital in France, where he was named the chief of medical services. Saddened and disillusioned by the war, McCrae found respite in writing letters and poetry, and wrote his final poem, “The Anxious Dead.”

— Adapted from the bio of McCrae at The Academy of American Poets web page. More here.

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You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,

will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress;
my God, in whom I trust.”

— Psalm 91:1

This morning as I was reflecting on this scripture and others related to darkness and light and the strength we find in God, it occurred to me once again why Psalm 23 is so popular and comforting even to people who aren’t necessarily believers.

Verse 4 famously says:

    Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

    I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;

    thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

The two hardest and coldest facts of life are that we all are going to die (and in fact we’re dying from the moment we’re born), and that we’re all going to have pain and suffering in this life.

Which is to say we’re all going to walk through some dark and scary valleys.

The darkness and low-down-ness may be from the loss of a child, which is as painful as pain gets, or news of a terminal disease inside of our body or that of a loved one. It may even stem from the loss of a faithful dog who loved us as unconditionally as God himself-herself loves us when unconditional love from family or friends ran shallow at best.

We Christians see Psalm 23 as an assurance that Christ will walk with us every step of the way through the dark valleys of grief and pain. As we move with our Lord closer to the light of relief toward which we’re moving through the valley, most of us learn we have strength within us we didn’t know we had. (That said, deep depression and suicide are topics for another day.)

Granted, we may believe that Jesus is bearing our cross along the way as we pray or cry out to him to help us through. But more often than not in the darkest and most painful depths of a valley, we can’t help but think we won’t have the strength to reach the gate to the fullness of a bright day again.

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When I was active in pastoral care ministry as a chaplain, the wife of a man who died after a long and agonizing death in the hospital said to me, “I’ve always thought of myself as a very strong person, chaplain, but I can’t see me having the strength to get through this. That man was my whole life for almost forty years.”

Having gotten to know her for weeks as her husband of so many years fought through end-stage cancer, I said to her, “I assure you that you’re going to find you have strength you didn’t know you had. I’m not going to give you platitudes or tell you you just have to be strong because the truth is it will be dark and very hard sometimes.

“But I know that you’ll begin to see the light at the end of the valley in time and tap into that very strength that makes you think of yourself as strong.”

A year later I received a nice letter from her at the hospital in which she said her grief was still deep and profound. But, she said, “You were right. I found strength I didn’t know I had. I know I’m going to make it through this. I know now there is light at the end of the valley and Jesus will keep me going.”

Aside from the fact that I was pleased she remembered our talk so vividly, I have to say I actually I had pretty much that same talk with many folks I ministered to in hospital and hospice ministries. I spoke pretty much those same words to patients or their loved ones many times, depending entirely, mind you, on the situation and how much rapport I had developed with someone. (***See endnote.)

I do in fact believe we always have strength we’re not sure we have when we’re laid low by suffering or hardship.

I know this from personal experience. I’ve walked through enough valleys of pain and depression in my own life that there were times I didn’t think I had the stuff to carry on. But I always passed through the valley with the realization that I had strength or courage I either didn’t know I had or that I was unsure I had.

As I see it, that inner strength is the eternal light of God within us.

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One of the many mysteries of the faith life is that the darkness in us and around us leads us to brighter light within us and around us. Recall that in the beginning God said let there be light. And in the light there is the power of transformation of weakness into sturdiness and even beauty. Consider that most plant life needs light to grow and transform.

God transforms darkness into light and in light there is the potential for spiritual growth and out of spiritual growth we find strength we didn’t know we had.

Thank you, God, for showing us the way to light and for doing the quiet work of strength conditioning.

———
***Mind you, there are no stock responses to people’s grief as everyone’s grief is so typical but also so utterly unique that no two people grieve in the same way or in any typical amount of time.

And the best response to someone in grief in so many cases is simply to sit with them in silence, holding their hand and holding our tongue and just listening to what they have to say without judgment or trying to be Abby of Dear Abby.

And please, dear reader, never tell someone in pain that “God never gives us more than we can handle.” First of all God doesn’t give us pain and suffering, but gives us comfort and strength when we are in pain and suffering. And that tired platitude is cold comfort to someone who feels like they have more than they can handle as they walk in the valley of darkness.

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Haven’t had much time for blogging lately but hope to get back to it starting with this quick note about the insane state of American politics . . .

I’ve noticed that since he’s not having to campaign anymore in supposedly “evangelical Christian states” (as if any state is populated exclusively by conservative evangelicals) that Donald Trump has stopped talking about how “amazing” God is, how “amazing” the Bible is (almost as awesome as Trump’s own The Art of the Deal).13151575_1548558032113134_947550044285932288_n

He’s stopped reminding us every day that he’s a Presbyterian (even though there’s no record of his membership at the Manhattan Presbyterian church he claims membership in).

God seems to have been “Left Behind” in what I now call “the Dump campaign.” (Take cover every chance you get–the man dumps it everywhere!)

But America loves him because he’s “authentic,” unlike his opponent.

I think I need an endless stream of sizzling Alka Seltzer.

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In the time of my confession,

in the hour of my deepest need

When the pool of tears beneath my feet

flood every newborn seed

There’s a dying voice within me

reaching out somewhere

Toiling in the danger

and in the morals of despair.

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In the fury of the moment

I can see the Master’s hand

In every leaf that trembles,

in every grain of sand

— From Bob Dylan’s “Every Grain of Sand”

When Bruce Springsteen inducted Dylan into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, he cited the sublime and deeply spiritual “Every Grain Of Sand” as an example of his best work.

That was a mouthful considering His Greatness Mr. Dylan’s body of work.

It was undoubtedly inspired at least in part by the famously gorgeous line from the God-loving mystic William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence:

    To see a world in a grain of sand

    And a heaven in a wild flower,

    Hold infinity in the palm of your hand

    And eternity in an hour.

And we got it for you right here at Jitterbugging For Jesus,” the blawg that is saving the world with its wit, wisdom, provocations and stimulations while possibly (probably) alienating whole towns, nations, cities and states.

Hear now this word. . .

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A friend of mine named Ann in Asheville, N.C., shared something on Facebook the other day that grabbed me.

She shared a meditation written in a church newsletter about Pentecost by Karen Cavagnini, a woman involved with ministry at Asheville’s Haywood Street Congregation.

Haywood is a United Methodist mission congregation and faith-based nonprofit founded in 2009 by Rev. Brian Combs, a man who apparently stretched waaay out of his comfort zone to serve our Lord.

Judging from the non-profit’s web page and what my friend Ann has told me, Haywood is a vibrant and interesting Christian community.

    “Those who eat and worship together at Haywood Street are individuals carrying all their worldly possessions in ragged backpacks as well as privileged professionals, stay-at-home moms, students and the working poor,” the web page notes.

    “The core programs provide a platform for the ministry of relationship, which can be defined simply as the act of “being with” and speaks to our deepest identity. It contrasts with doing for’ and requires spending time together, talking and listening, serving and being served, giving and receiving. It forms the basis for our unique and transformative companion ministry.”

What follows is the powerful reflection about “Pentecosting” that the aforementioned Ms. Cavagnini wrote for the Haywood Street newsletter that I saved to share here today–which is Pentecost Sunday–with some slight editing.

And go here to learn more about Pentecost, sometimes called “the birthday of the church.”

It’s based on this scripture in Acts 2.

    Holy Spirit. Breath of God. God’s own life with us and in us.

    Sometimes I am flooded with a sense of amazement that the same Spirit of God that hovered over the waters of darkness and chaos before bringing creation into being … and the same Spirit of God that breathed life through the patriarchs, prophets, apostles and martyrs … the same breath of God that poured into the lives of John the Baptist and Mary … and the breath of God’s Spirit that came to life in the miracles and teachings and total self giving of his son, Jesus … that very same Spirit is with me and in me and empowers me the same way it empowered his followers as they fearfully waited together in one room at the original Pentecost. Wow!

    This breath of God pouring out into my life is so very beautiful when I am with my Haywood Street community.

    I recently encountered the idea of Pentecost being a verb, not a noun. ‘Pentecosting.’

    I love this. I encounter Pentecost every time I am here at Haywood Street. This week was no different. There was a lot of ‘Pentecosting’ going on!

    I saw the breath of God weave its way through the hospitality room as I witnessed a beautiful exchange of forgiveness and healing. After a very heated argument, two Friends reached out to the other and asked for forgiveness from and offered forgiveness to the other person. They shook hands. The Spirit of mercy, healing and reconciliation flowed through my friends.

    The breath of God poured into me as I welcomed a friend I had not seen for several months and who had recently been on my mind. I felt this Spirit as I met some new friends who were experiencing Holy Chaos for the first time. I talked with a friend who had just received the news that she was getting housing. She shared her gratitude for the chance for a fresh start.

    I watched talented hair stylists and artists share their gifts with many friends. The Spirit of encounter, connection, friendship and transformation flowed through the room.

    I also felt the breath of God in the prayer room. Several friends came in to share heavy burdens. Our prayer ministers lovingly welcomed them in to this sacred space. They gently offered our friends some much needed moments of quiet and support. The importance of just being still was recognized and the silent and beautiful gift of presence was offered to our friends experiencing the cross in such challenging ways.

    Friends shared the Spirit within them as they in turn offered prayers for our prayer ministers and for each other. I was moved by the Spirit of gentleness, compassion, presence and courage.

    ‘Pentecosting’ happens all the time at Haywood Street. It happens in every ministry week after week. It is an ongoing pouring out of the life and breath and action of God into our community.

    Come, Holy Spirit! Breathe your life into us. Breathe in your Spirit of acceptance, of belovedness, of worth, of compassion, of presence, of oneness.
    May you sense the Breath of God all around and within you this week!
    Peace,
    Karen

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MY PLEASURE

MY PLEASURE

YOUR BELIZEAN FACE OF THE DAY: One of the (many) street characters you'll see on the streets of Belize City.

YOUR BELIZEAN FACE OF THE DAY: One of the (many) street characters you’ll see on the streets of Belize City.

OH. NEVERMIND.

OH. NEVERMIND.

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Seen at the riverside in San Ignacio today: a proud papa with his roly poly little fat face boy.

Seen at the riverside in San Ignacio today: a proud papa with his roly poly little fat face boy.

Picture here are two Mennonite lads parked at the no-entry side of the one-way, plank bridge over the Macal River that is the one and only bridge into San Ignacio and the rest of Western Belize. So why did the boys wait more than 10 minutes (I was sitting by the river and time it) to cross the one-way bridge the wrong way?

Picture here are two Mennonite lads parked at the no-entry side of the one-way, plank bridge over the Macal River that is the one and only bridge into San Ignacio and the rest of Western Belize. So why did the boys wait more than 10 minutes (I was sitting by the river and time it) to cross the one-way bridge the wrong way?

ANSWER: To get to the other side of the river where they could get out the bucket and get their horses drinks of water.

ANSWER: To get to the other side of the river where they could get out the bucket and get their horses drinks of water.

You know your truck may be too old it you've painted its name on the side of the door.

You know your truck may be too old it you’ve painted its name on the side of the door.

FOR SURE FOR SURE.

FOR SURE FOR SURE.

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AMEN.

AMEN.

INTERESTING.

INTERESTING.

/*

MOUTH DRYING GOOD.

MOUTH DRYING GOOD.

WINK, WINK

WINK, WINK

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MAYBE TIME FOR A CHANGE?

MAYBE TIME FOR A CHANGE?

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You need the practice of mindfulness to bring your mind back to the body and establish yourself in the moment. If you are fully present, you need only make a step or take a breath in order to enter the kingdom of God.

“And once you have the kingdom, you don’t need to run after objects of your craving, like power, fame, sensual pleasure, and so on. Peace is possible. Happiness is possible. And this practice is simple enough for everyone to do.

— Buddhist teacher and writer Thích Nhất Hạnh in an interview with Oprah

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”

Apostle Paul

I see Buddhist leader Thich Nhat Hanh as the real “Superman.”

Not in the sense that the tiny monk is a comic-book hero type, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but rather in the sense of being so stress-free as to be almost other-wordly.

Thich is a Buddhist monk, teacher and writer who courageously made his name as a peace activist in his native Vietnam during the war years there before he left for 40 years in exile. The 89-year-old Buddhist was nominated by Martin Luther King, Jr., for the Nobel Peace Prize.

For some reason he’s not as famous as his Tibetan Buddhist contemporary The Dalai Lama, but he’s quite well known at that. I actually became best acquainted with his spirituality and teachings in 2003, when my supervisor in chaplaincy at Methodist Hospital in Dallas gave me a copy of Thich’s 1992 bestseller Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life. (My supervisor was an ordained Assembly of God preacher. Who says Pentecostals don’t read?)

That book inspired me to re-read the monk’s wonderful 1997 book examining the striking similarities in the teachings of Jesus and Buddha–Living Buddha, Living Christ. I had read it in a world religions class in seminary but appreciated it, and all the Vietnamese monks teachings, more on the second reading.

I raise all this up to you, dear reader, because Thich said a couple of things in an interview with Oprah a few years ago–it recently was re-broadcast on her network–that has stuck with me. It’s in this Q & A:

    OW: Do you meditate every single day?

    TNH: Not only every day, but every moment.

    OW: So, in a moment where you are perhaps going to miss a plane, or be late for an appointment, or something is causing you to be stressful, you do what?

    TNH: Go back to my breathing and try to be in that moment deeply. Because there is a possibility to handle every kind of event and the essential is to keep the peace in yourself.

As one who’s always had an abiding interest in Buddhism I’ve coped with a lot of stressful circumstances with that old-time Buddhist mindful breathing. But I’ve tried in recent years to be ever-mindful of the monk’s assertion that “there is a possibility to handle every kind of event.”

To my way of thinking as a Christian this comports with the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 8: 26-28 about all things working for the good in the end:

    Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

    We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

In times when I’m so stressed out that it’s hard to even pray I try remember, first of all, to get in touch with my breath and “come back home to myself,” as Thich says–to get back in the present moment where God and I are most at home together.

If I think back to times when I missed a plane or ran a frantic hour late for an important appointment, I’m reminded that everything worked out. I lived to see another day, for gosh sakes.

I lived through it and somehow or another everything worked out, even if I didn’t necessarily see it working out for good at the time.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear,” Jesus says in one of my favorite gospel scriptures in Matthew 6.

“Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—-you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Take a deep breath.

This too shall pass.

One way or another, everything today is going to be all right.

Quite possibly for the good.

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“The mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

— The United Methodist Church’s mission statement, found in the church’s Book of Discipline

United Methodist delegates from around the world are convened in Portland this week and next for our once-every-four-years General Conference--the meeting in which 500 clergy and as many lay delegates vote on church laws, budgets and other matters.

The United Methodist Church in America has 57 annual conferences (also called regional conferences), supervised by 46 bishops. The denomination has 76 annual conferences in Africa, Europe, and the Philippines, supervised by 20 bishops.

The United Methodist Church in America has 57 annual conferences (also called regional conferences), supervised by 46 bishops. The denomination has 76 annual conferences in Africa, Europe, and the Philippines, supervised by 20 bishops.

Inevitably, the delegates end up quarreling, sometimes bitterly, over the church’s longstanding stances in our Book of Discipline–our book of church laws and policies and such–that prohibit gays and lesbians from being fully included in the life of the church.

So I’m following General Conference via the web with much anticipation–and much hope against hope that the church will stop treating homosexuals in ways that are hurtful to them and their loved ones.

What follows are my own personal thoughts and opinions on it all.

* * *

As a “cradle Methodist” from Wesleyan stock, I love God and people and my church to such an extent that I took vows to serve God and others and the church in ordained ministry.

But that doesn’t mean I like everything about this heavily institutionalized church I serve.

I don’t like that as an ordained UMC deacon I can bless your dogs and cats and even your slimy pet snakes, but I can’t preside at the wedding of two people who love each other if they happen to be of the same sex.

I don’t like that the UMC doesn’t allow “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” to be ordained.

A sidebar about ordination may be in order:

One feels called to ministry by God and the church’s role is to determine through a long and grueling candidacy process if the calling is an honest-to-God call. If the call is determined to be true–and if the candidate is found to have the unique “gifts and graces” required for United Methodist ministry–the church’s role is to affirm the calling and ordain the one called. Not everyone who feels called–or feels that he or she has the gifts and graces for ordination–makes the cut.

But anyone who is openly gay or lesbian and “practicing”–which means anyone who is out of the closet and openly in relationship with another gay or lesbian person–need not even apply, calling or no calling.

Some of the most devout disciples of Christ I know happen to be homosexuals. Churches throughout the UMC and every other denomination have these witnesses to God’s love, some who are in the closet and, increasingly, some who are not.

The United Methodist Church’s stated mission is “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” So why can’t a homosexual as much as a straight person be a disciple of Christ committed to transforming the world and advancing the kingdom of heaven of which Christ gave us a foretaste?

I don’t like that my beloved UMC’s Book of Discipline contains language that is hurtful and condescending toward homosexuals and their families.

Our Discipline states:

    “While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world. The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. (My italics for emphasis.) Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”

Again, I know many and very many homosexual Christians in my denomination and others whose “standards of holy living in the world” are as high as the sky–higher than that of many prigs who are in church every time the doors are open. (C.S. Lewis noted in Mere Christianity that a lot of prigs in church every Sunday are closer to hell than a lot of prostitutes. In my book, he was right, as usual.)

For the love of God, I don’t understand why anyone thinks a person who was created and birthed (and baptized, btw) as something other than heterosexual can’t live a holy and perfectly good life in obedience to Christ, who of course never uttered a word about homosexuality.

Mind you, Jesus may have been dead-set against homosexual coupling since he used language about love between a man and a woman. Be that as it may, homosexuality didn’t make the cut in his list of priorities. Either that or the gospel writers left out his commands against homosexuality, though I can’t imagine why they would.

Jesus did speak out forcefully against divorce, which churches and Christians opposed to gay rights don’t obsess over.

But my God, do they ever obsess over homosexuality.

Especially the 55 to 60 percent of United Methodists from around the world who vote every four years to keep gay-inclusiveness petitions from passing.

* * *

I don’t even understand why “the practice of homosexuality” (all sexuality requires practice, practice, practice, I reckon–that’s how you get to Carnegie Hall) is “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

At one time, it was “incompatible with Christian teaching, or perceived as such.

But times constantly and endlessly change. We are no longer living in biblical times.

We aren’t even in the 1950s anymore, or the sixties or seventies or eighties or nineties or the 20th century.

We’re in 2016.

Times have changed.

When I was growing up, getting divorced was deeply and harshly frowned upon in the Christian culture and only a slightly less degree in the secular culture. Divorce was what the weirdos in Hollywood did. Divorcees in Main Street, America were stigmatized and oftentimes ostracized, especially by righteous Christians.

Many if not most churches and pastors took a hard line in counseling people against divorce, even if a woman member of a church was stuck in an abusive marriage behind closed doors. But then, in those days, if a woman member of a church was stuck in an abusive marriage, she most likely would “suffer in silence.” She wouldn’t go to the pastor for guidance, much less to the police.

But times change.

Women have changed. They don’t “suffer in silence” and they don’t think twice about breaking their holy wedding vows if a husband beats on them or intimidates them at every turn–or they shouldn’t.

Churches awakened to the fact that there are things worse–in some but of course not just in any case–than a divorce.

So am I suggesting that Jesus Christ was wrong in speaking harshly against divorce except in cases of adultery?

No and a thousand times no, because we know that Jesus was on the side of life and it more abundant and healthy in every way. He was and is on the side of love that is healthy and whole, never on the side of abuse or violence or intimidation infecting a marriage or anything else.

We get so hung up on the words in scripture that we lose sight of the over-arching message of our Lord.

"Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. " I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and the rivers in the desert." -- Isaiah 43:18-19

“Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.
” I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and the rivers in the desert.”
— Isaiah 43:18-19

Yes, God is constant and everlasting and reliable, but the people created by God change–and that calls for changes in how we see others, engage others, even minister to others.

By and large, white Christians see and engage African-Americans today in a far different way than white Christians did 200 years, 100 years or 50 or 70 years ago, when they engaged African-Americans with segregation, violence and intimidation. You won’t hear many Christians outside of the most radical and extreme circles using the Bible to justify slavery or interracial marriage as in days of old.

Theologians say that “new times call for new duties,” meaning that as times change, we have to change the way we as Christians offer ministry. (And Protestantism 101 says all baptized believers all ministers.)

As times change we have to change the way we interpret scripture–but being careful not to change the way we interpret scripture with every trendy new belief that comes down the cultural pike. So please do not accuse me of suggesting that the church should surrender to the secular culture every time an immoral or unethical idea in secular culture takes hold.

Churches and denominations that already have changed their doctrines and policies to include homosexuals didn’t change overnight. Their leaders spent years testing and challenging each other, in prayer and discernment, to make sure that it was God “doing a new thing” through the Holy Spirit.

We Methodists have been testing and challenging and debating and arguing gay issues for 40 years and more, but change comes to the church two ways–slow or not all.

* * * *

The real need for change is discerned by being attuned to the Holy Spirit, the wind that “blows where it will.” Our God does do new and unanticipated things through the Spirit.

Times change and the grace and love of God is experienced in new ways.

And yet, my beloved UMC, in my opinion, keeps resisting the winds of what would be, in my opinion, a long overdue change.

And this I know–baptized homosexuals and their supportive loved ones feel betrayed and hurt by my church as a result.

I pray for greater unity and understanding, healing and reconciliation, and what I believe in all my heart is the need for change in my church in Portland in the coming days.

FYI: See more links here on:

The current General Conference in Portland

What General Conference is and how it works

The United Methodist Book of Discipline

An interesting take from an Episcopal priest at Huffington Post

And here’s an overview of the denomination’s beliefs, structures and most everything else you might want to know about the Methodist Church that grew out of a movement by John and Charles Wesley.

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