This is my personal blog. My views are my own and do not represent those of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Gimme that New-Time Religion!

I am part of a progressive pastors' group in Beaverton.   They have planned a study for Lent of Diana Butler-Bass' book, Christianity After Religion:  The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening.   The Lenten book study is called, "Gimme that New-Time Religion!"

The study and soup supper will be held every Thursday from 6-8 pm February 26 through March 26 at Christ United Methodist Church, 12755 NW Dogwood, Portland.   Childcare and children's programs will be offered as well!

Hope you can join us.  Even if you cannot make the first one, come when you can!

You might be interested in an interview I had with Diana about her book on Religion For Life.   Here is the podcast.

The ecumenical study is a cooperative effort of Cedar Hills United Church of Christ, Mission of the Atonement, Murray Hills Christian Church, Southminster Presbyterian Church, and Christ United Methodist Church.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Sweet Home Alabama!

Sheppards and Lapsley Presbytery in Alabama of all places voted convincingly (75-39) in favor of marriage equality today!  Here is that story.
"I'd just like to be able to do my job and marry couples when the state of Alabama says okay," said the Rev. Shannon Webster, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham. That includes being able to perform weddings for gay couples in his church who are in committed relationships, he said.
Joining Sheppards and Lapsley on the yes train were Baltimore and Southeastern Illinois.   46-18 is the latest tally.  

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

More Flips for Equality!

I just learned from Covenant Network that the Presbytery of Pueblo voted yes on marriage equality making the tally 43-17.   This includes seven presbyteries who flipped from no on ordination equality to yes on marriage equality.   Guess they are just romantics at heart.  Give Glacier, Pueblo, and Stockton the Flipper Award!

Install that Preacher!

The big party is Sunday, February 15th at 2 p.m.  I will be installed by Cascades Presbytery as pastor of  Southminster Presbyterian Church of Beaverton.  It will be a great service.

Music by a combined children's, youth, and chancel choir as well as the bell choir and the Southminster band.

Providing words of welcome include...

Preaching is the one and only Aric Clark, co-author with Doug Hagler and Nick Larson of Never Pray Again!   It is a great book and they were a great interview on Religion For Life

This is really cool. A member of the congregation provided her frequent flier miles to fly Katy and Amber up for the weekend!
If you are near our evergreen, join us!

If you are clergy type of any flavor, dress in your regalia and join the procession. Wear a red stole if you have one. Something fiery.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Up With Shuck!

Thanks to Carmen Fowler of the LayMAN for announcing my move to Oregon!  She made a reference to me in a recent article:
Brady is referencing the failure the PCUSA, at all levels, to uphold its own polity even when a clear breach of the constitution is acknowledged. There continues to be a growing chasm between the denomination’s espoused theology – in the case the theology that all discipline is designed to be restorative and not punitive – and its theology in practice which pulverizes those who question the institution and continues to promote those whose theology is often not recognizable as “Christian.” One case in point: As it defrocks Rightmyer, the PCUSA has seen John Shuck move to a larger congregation and a new presbytery in Oregon. Shuck, who openly denies the divinity of Jesus, the veracity of the Bible and the existence of heaven. But for the PCUSA it’s all “up” for those like Shuck and “down” with those like Rightmyer.
A day without the LayMAN is like a day without sunshine. In Portland there are many days without sunshine. It is really quite nice actually.

The LayMAN is as usual, "outraged" by my existence.   They have been outraged for quite some time. I was espousing my heresies with impunity for over nine years in one of the most conservative presbyteries in the denomination and Carmen and her pals failed to discipline me.  They failed to do their duties as Presbyterians and bring me up on charges.  They failed to locate the fill-in-the-blank form in the back of the Book of Order and start the process to remove this cancer, this blight, this purveyor of false doctrine.

Why is that do you suppose?  Why is the LayMAN such a failure? Why do those people who read the LayMAN follow them so blindly in their failure?  Why are they so inept and filled with sin that they are unable or unwilling to protect the sheep from the wolves?  I really don't have an answer to those questions.  They will have to examine their own hearts to determine why they cannot do the Lord's will.

As for me, I am doing the same thing I have always done.  I am honest with my own journey.  I speak for myself.  I encourage critical thinking.  I present scholarship, insights, and wisdom from a variety of places.  I don't pretend to possess absolute truth even as I preach and teach what I think is true.   I reserve the right to change my mind and I make it clear that others have the freedom to think differently.

My best guess as to why I am still a teaching elder in good standing in the PCUSA (in spite of the LayMAN's outrage) is that most people think that my approach is more Presbyterian.   Most people in the denomination including the leadership are more likely to agree with me than with the LayMAN in matters of our approaches to biblical studies, theology, ethics, and ministry.

We don't live in the 16th century any longer, Carmen.  Most people get that.  While it may challenge our intellects to reframe notions of God, the Bible, Jesus, sin, salvation, sexuality, divinity, heaven, ethics and whatever else for the 21st century, I think it is worth doing.  I don't care if you refuse to do that and instead espouse antiquated views.  But it is a bit tedious to bring me into it all of the time in a feeble attempt to score rhetorical points with your audience and to foment schism in the denomination.

Peace be on your house.  We have moved on.

Friday, February 06, 2015


30-13 (30 yes and 13 no) is the latest tally for the PCUSA marriage equality amendment!   I am adding the vote chart kept my More Light Presbyterians to the sidebar.    Redwoods, Utica and Western North Carolina all voted yes in the past week!

The big news is that Huntington voted yes, 31-29.  They had voted no last time on ordination equality.  So give Huntington the Flipper Award!

Nicely done.   There is no substitute for actually showing up to the meeting and voting!

Here are texts of Overture Advocates making their presentations at General Assembly.  I have reposted June Carlson's speech. June is an elder from Southminster.   She was on the Pastor Nominating Committee so she can also be blamed for you know what.   June said (quite eloquently):
I’m June Carlson, ruling elder. Southminster Presbyterian Church, Beaverton, Oregon, Cascades Presbytery. Two years ago, the 220th General called for “serious study and discernment” on Christian marriage. My congregation took this to heart. We studied scripture. We prayed together. Our pastor preached on the meaning of Christian marriage. Our “serious study and discernment” led us to conclude that because our faith calls us to live out the inclusive message of the Gospel, we must work for marriage equality in the PCUSA.

Accordingly, this overture seeks to replace Directory for Worship section W-4.9000 with the language you have before you. The overture originated in Cascades Presbytery. Sixteen others concurred. We represent all these presbyteries. We are here to advocate for our belief that your committee’s affirmative recommendation of this overture to the assembly is a faithful action to take.

In our Reformed tradition, working in the world for peace, equality, reconciliation and social justice is an expression of faith. The Book of Order urges us to honor diversity in our church councils. So is it consistent with our heritage to listen to the voices of those who have been marginalized in society, and especially within the fellowship of the church. Jesus modeled inclusivity, welcoming all, excluding no one from his blessing. That inclusivity has made a claim on our hearts, causing us to see that the church’s blessing of the covenant of marriage is meant not just for some, but for all our members. The current Directory for Worship language excludes same-gender loving couples like Ralph and Van who are full, vital, faithful members of our Christian family.

Over the last several years, the pace of social change has accelerated dramatically. Many of us struggle to make sense of this change. Some of us are confused or dismayed by changes in patterns of family, church, and culture. But these changes also offer opportunities to follow more faithfully that path of radical love and inclusivity that Jesus demonstrated in his ministry.

Thank you for undertaking the important task before you. Our deep concern is for what will become of those faithful Presbyterians who have been very patient with our church while we engage in years of “study and discernment” about whether they and their families shall receive our full blessing. It’s likely that whatever your committee and this Assembly decide, some people will feel disappointed. There is no comfortable resolution to the question before you, but we believe this amendment is the way forward by which the church can minister inclusively to all God’s children, while preserving freedom of conscience for individual members and ministers.

In our collective presentation today, we will make our case based in scripture, polity, and church mission; and share examples illustrating how our church marriage policy limits our ministry to those who seek the church’s guidance and care in making the lifelong commitment of marriage. 

As June said, this amendment provides an opportunity "to follow more faithfully that path of radical love and inclusivity that Jesus demonstrated in his ministry."

The truth.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Finding a Groove

It is a bit of a learning curve but I am setting up an office studio for Religion For Life.   My goal is by April 1st to have at least four shows recorded, produced and ready to broadcast.   The plan is to get set up and running from my office and then I'll contact radio stations.   I would like to be connected with a real radio station studio at some point but I think it will be an easier sell if I have a product up and running and ready to deliver.   A huge thanks to my friends at WETS for keeping things going on the distribution end.

I am ready, dear authors and publicists, to set up some interviews.  If any of you know of folks who should be on this program (including but not limited to the Portland area), contact me at religionforlife[at] and send media copies of books to

Religion For Life
John Shuck
Southminster Presbyterian Church
12250 SW Denney Road
Beaverton, OR 97008

I am working my way through Audacity, have a microphone on order, and I have been practicing by editing and posting sermons on the new Sermon and Jive podcast page.  Check it out.   Texts of sermons here.

I am running some Classic Religion For Life (OK, reruns) on the four stations now.  You can find all the shows by searching the podcast page.   Follow Religion For Life on Facebook and Twitter to see what episodes are currently on air.   This week I am rebroadcasting my conversation with Alex McNeill, who is now the executive director for More Light Presbyterians.   I think it was a fascinating conversation about his journey from female to male as well as his ordination journey.

Speaking of More Light Presbyterians, I have been so preoccupied with moving that I have been out of touch with "the tally."  I am speaking of course of the marriage equality tally in the PCUSA.   Presbyteries are voting on an amendment to the Book of Order to change marriage from "a man and a woman" to "two people, traditionally a man and a woman."   This is Amendment 14-F.

This amendment originated with the session of Southminster Presbyterian Church, Beaverton, Oregon!  How cool is that?   I had nothing to do with it as they had made this overture to Cascades Presbytery while I was still a Tennessean.  I did, however, press my electronic keypad in favor of it at General Assembly.

Where are we now?  You can find the current tally at a couple of locations.  The LayMAN is keeping tabs on us, of course.   By the way, the LayMAN disapproves.  Their new slogan is:

We are the LayMAN.  We disapprove. 

Covenant Network keeps a tally.   They do approve.

The current score?  26 Yes and 11 No as of January 28.   This is an excellent start.   Foothills, Seattle, and Yukon all voted yes after voting no on ordination equality.  Eastern Oklahoma went the other way, voting no after voting yes on ordination equality.   The net result is two positive switches.   It is looking good, beloveds.

Writing about marriage equality gives me the opportunity to post a picture of one reason why it matters and of my inspiration, The Mrs. Shucks.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

In Appreciation for Marcus Borg

I opened my email this morning to the sad news that Marcus Borg died on Wednesday.  Professor Borg  was instrumental in helping me find meaning in Christianity.  His book, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time enabled a generation to find a way to enter or to re-enter the Christian tradition by way of a history and metaphor.  

If you search Borg on my blog you will find a number of posts dedicated to the study of his writing.   I gave away and replaced Heart of Christianity many times in my efforts to introduce people to a thoughtful Christianity.   Borg was a founding member of the Jesus Seminar who I credit for helping me find the content of my faith.  I wrote this a couple of years ago:
Two books, Marcus Borg’s Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time and John Dominic Crossan’s Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography changed my faith. Not just my thinking…my faith. Default religion (Jesus died on the cross to save some people from sin so they--Christians--can go to heaven when they die even though most people will go to hell) lost its appeal for me long ago. 
Borg and Crossan introduced me to a Jesus who was a real person. He embodied a vision of justice, peace, and hope that wasn’t based on supernaturalism. In opposition to the injustice and dehumanizing forces of Empire, this Jesus preached the “empire” of God that is real, present, and participatory.

I don’t talk or write about my faith too often. It is mine. It is personal. It is sacred to me. Making it public risks misrepresentation and belittlement. I also know that talking about personal faith can sound self-righteous and grandiose.

At the risk of all of that I will say that for me, my search for the historical Jesus has enabled me to find content for my faith. It is not simply an intellectual exercise. This vision, this icon, this myth (in the true sense of that word) of the historical Jesus is sacred.

Jesus stood up for those who were put down.
I trust, I have faith, that I can do that too.
That is the Jesus who is “in my heart.”
That is my faith.
I thank the Jesus Seminar for their part in restoring it.
Maybe the quest will inspire you as well.
Marcus Borg was always a gracious teacher. I was fortunate to have him on Religion For Life three times (Evolution of the Word, Speaking Christian). The one I enjoyed the most was the last when he talked about his book, Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most.

He will be missed by many.

I count myself among that number.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


We have arrived!

Much to say about the moving experience.   It is a high stress activity even as it has gone as smoothly as one could hope.   I feel this tearing, torn between two worlds.  I have never lived anywhere as I long as I lived in East Tennessee.  It has been painful pulling up those roots.  We are tenderly re-planting them in Portland.  We have a Portland address but the area where we live is called Bethany, west of the ridge that separates downtown from the western suburbs.   We are renting a home that has a nice yard for the pups.  Who knows, we may rent until we die.  Such is life.

This new position is larger than my last.  We had 192 in worship on Sunday.   People are checking out the new guy.   I am trying my best to learn the ropes, set my timetables, learn names, and figure out the system.   This will be a big job.   In addition to learning the duties of the position I am trying to see how the radio show might work.   I would love to do it here.   I have to figure out how to approach the stations and which stations.  

Religion For Life certainly made an impression in East Tennessee.  This past week I received two emails that typify the response.  People either love it or think I am the devil.  Check it:
I go the St Luke’s, Boone, NC. You came to our book group last year.  It is still going strong. I went to my first Jesus Seminar at your church. I have since joined Westar.  It has been life changing. I love your show and trust  the podcasts will continue. I wish you the best of luck in your new life.
See how nice that is?  This is why I do what I do.  And then there is this:
I have followed your unministry on WETS. Thank you for leaving the area.
I believe your views on caring for the environment and equality for LGBT were correct but you have offended way too many fundamentalists who still want (and deserve) to believe that God is real and there is ultimate meaning to the human existence.
Why do you take such pleasure in trying to tear down the most sacred elements of the Christian faith?
Please seriously consider whether or not you might be demon possessed
Even Einstein said it is better to believe in something even if it is wrong, than in nothing at all
Did Einstein really say that?

Daniel Dennett calls that belief in belief.   I have a hard time accepting that believing in something just for the sake of believing is a virtue.   I am also not sure if the alternative to believing in the existence of a supernatural agent is to believe in nothing.  I believe in love.  I believe in you.   I believe in my own definition of God whatever that is.   I don't believe in views of God that don't make sense and I think it is good, even pleasurable, to tear down those sacred idols.

Fun stuff.  I want the fun to continue.  I am going to have fun with this new position.

If you are near our evergreen tree, join the fun at Southminster!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Shucks' Moving Sale!

We are moving and leaving much of our stuff in Tennessee.   So come on over, Saturday, November 22nd and get your hands on furniture, tools, and all kinds of other things.   Here is the Facebook event.

When:  8am to 5 pm, Saturday, November 22nd.
Where:  3 Fairway Court, Johnson City, Tennessee
What:  Lots of cool stuff!  See below:

A bowflex!

A master bedroom dresser and mirror!

A sectional with pull-out bed!  Oh, and some nutcrackers!

Many children's items and miscellaneous treasures!

A Phillips's Flat Screen TV!

A twin bed mattress, box spring and frame!  Plus a daybed! (not pictured)

Tools!  Leafblower, weed eater, hedgetrimmer, electric chainsaw, saws all, circular saw, sander, and more!

Golf clubs (black bag has lefty clubs), shotgun, snowboard!

Desk with glass top!

Plus, much, much more!   Prices will be marked or best offer…

This stuff is not leaving Tennessee!!