Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Again on Sprouts!

Pacifica Radio network is again featuring one of my shows on Sprouts!   It is my interview with Penpa Tsering, U.S. Representative of the Dalai Lama at the Office of Tibet in Washington DC.

sprouts cropped-weblogo21-copy

You can hear the Sprouts interview here.

The longer interview that aired on KBOO.

It is also coming up next week on Progressive Spirit.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Longest Night

Winter Solstice is tomorrow morning at 2:54 a.m. Pacific Time.  The Earth's tilt is the reason for the season.


This is from the Telegraph:
The winter solstice happens every year when the Sun reaches its most southerly declination of -23.5 degrees. In other words, when the North Pole is tilted furthest – 23.5 degrees – away from the Sun, delivering the fewest hours of sunlight of the year.
At Southminster (a name that kind of sounds like a place to go to ring out solstice bells) we will welcome the sun with a celebration to honor the dark at seven p.m. tonight, December 20th.

Lisa Loving, afternoon news director at 90.7 KBOO, talked with me about it on Monday's five pm news.  Here is that interview.  (It begins at 13:43 into the newscast).

Before Christmas was Winter Solstice. Our ancestors were star watchers, night gazers. They knew the darkness, its secrets, the dangers concealed under its cover. All mythologies have tales of the Longest Night just before Day breaks and Northern Hemisphere turns its face toward the Sun for six months of longer and longer days. The Longest Night is an opportunity for us to acknowledge our journey in the dark through whatever paths that journey takes us. Perhaps loss or grief, a recognition of impermanence or mortality, a need for silence in the midst of the cacophony of electric lights and noise. Invite a friend. Darkness offers its own Gift.

Come, light a candle, enjoy some poetry, hear some great music, take a deep breath, center your spirit, and welcome the sun.



Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thankful for Pacifica Radio Network

On Thanksgiving I am thankful for independent, volunteer-powered community radio.  More than ever we need citizen journalists and independent media outlets to report on the stories that do not simply contribute to the profits of networks and their advertisers.


I am thankful for KBOO, 90.7 in Portland for airing my show, Beloved Community, every second Friday from 9-10 a.m.  This show is politically oriented and provides resources for activists.

I also host a weekly radio show/podcast that airs on several stations and is produced at KBOO.  Progressive Spirit talks about values, spirituality, social justice, and religion in society.

sprouts

My programs got a boost this week.  The Pacifica Radio Network has featured my interview with Matthew Fox on Sprouts!   As many as 40 stations or more will air it this week.   As a special shout out to them, I am linking to their websites on this post.






You can hear that Sprouts broadcast here.

matthew



You can hear the full 60 minute interview with Fox that aired on KBOO here.







Please support your neighborhood community, college, or public radio station.   

Now is the time for citizens to stand up against neo-facism.  
We need all institutions in the public sphere to rise up and resist.

I am grateful to the stations that carry my show on a regular basis:

KBOO/Portland, Oregon,
WETS/Johnson City, Tennessee,
WEHC/Emory, Virginia,
WPVM/Asheville, North Carolina,
KZAX/Bellingham, WA,
*KCEI/Taos, New Mexico.

Gratitude to those stations that carry Progressive Spirit and/or Beloved Community when they have space in their programming schedule:

Cottage Grove, Oregon, KSOW 106.7
Florence, Oregon, KXCR, 90.7
*Lincoln County, Oregon, KYAQ 91.7
Jeffersonville, New York, WJFF 90.5
Norman, Oklahoma, KVOY 104.5
Goldendale, Washington, KVGD 100.1
Chicago, Illinois, WZRD, 88.3
Carrboro, North Carolina, WCOM 103.5
LanChester, Pennsylvania, WLRI 92.9
Round Mountain, California, KKRN, 88.5
*Houston, Texas, KPFT 90.1
*Moscow, Idaho, KRFP 90.3
*Middletown, Connecticut, WESU 88.1
*Kansas City, Missouri, KKFI 90.1
*Ames, Iowa, KHOI 89.1
Kahului, Hawaii, KAKU 88.5
Two Harbors, Minnesota, KTWH 99.5

*Also carrying my show this week on Sprouts.

Gratitude for all stations who have carried my show for the first time through Sprouts this week!

Phoenix, Arizona, RadioPhoenix
Berkeley, California, KPFA, 94.1
Redway, California, KMUD
Santa Cruz, California, FreeRadio, 101.3
Boulder, Colorado, KGNU, 88.5
Sarasota, Florida, WSLR, 96.5
Greenville, Illinois, WGRN, 89.5
Peoria, Illinois, WAZU, 90.7
Acra, New York, WGXC, 90.7
Ithaca, New York, WRFI, 88.1
Palenville, New York, WLPP, 102.9
Columbus, Ohio, WGRN, 94.1
Ashland, Oregon, KSKQ, 89.5
Knoxville & Tri-Cities, Tennessee, Detour.us
Plainfield, Vermont, WGDR, 91.1
Mount Vernon, Washington, KSVR, 91.7
Olympia, Washington, KOAS, 89.3
Olympia, Washington, KOWA, 106.5
Spokane, Washington, KYRS, 88.1/92.3
Madison, Wisconsin, WMUU, 102.9
Viroqua, Wisconsin, WDRT, 91.9
Global Community Radio, global communityradio.blogspot
Work Force Rising Radio, workforcerising.com

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Put Not Your Trust in Princes

We will start looking for, and being, the helpers...

At our election eve service that happened to receive a lot of media attention, Portland Tribune/KOIN, KGW, KATU, Kansas City Star (and others), one of the texts was from Psalm 146:
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God all my life long.
Put not your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help.
When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
on that very day their plans perish.
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God,
who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free.
The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down.
The Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the strangers.
S/he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked s/he brings to ruin.
The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord!
This psalm comes from longing.  Despite the language of praise, I hear in it profound disappointment, despair, and a realization that the "princes" are not to be trusted.  They will not do the work that needs to be done.   They may even work against the work that needs doing,
justice for the oppressed,
food for the hungry
freedom for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
dignity for those brought down,
love for the righteous,
protection of the stranger,
justice for the orphan and the widow,
justice, too, for the wicked, for those who cause harm...
This psalm speaks to me on Wednesday morning more than it did Monday night.
Put not your trust in princes.
But don't despair over the princes, either.
Put not your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help.When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish.
The princes never can be trusted, even the good ones, to carry out this work.  It is up to someone with greater depth and with a longer history.   The psalmist longs for "the Lord."  I, too, long for the Lord.

I don't exactly know what to make of what or who "the Lord" might be.   While I don't think there is any supernatural being or personality out there, I do think there is a reality to which this symbol points.   That reality is not "out there" but within and especially among.

I like to think of "the Lord" as the human aspiration for what is good and just.   Not an abstract ideal of the good or the just, but goodness and justice as it is done and has been done and will be done in the lives of human beings.   Goodness and justice incarnated in the bodies of those who feed, care, march, build, weep, encourage, liberate, and love.  
We will start looking for, and being, the helpers...
A member at Southminster, Chris, posted that on my Facebook page.  It caught me up short.  Of course.  We will.   We will look for and we will be the helpers.  

This Lord is what Mark Lewis Taylor calls "The Executed God."
The executed Jesus of Nazareth is not in himself some executed God, as readers might first think from this book’s title. No, the God who is executed, suffering imperial, state-sanctioned crucifixion, is presented in this book as a whole life force, a greater power, if you will, that is made up of three dynamics that were crucial to Jesus’ way of the cross: (1) being politically adversarial to religiously backed imperial power, (2) performing creative and dramatic instances of resistance to imperial power, and (3) organizing movements that can continue resistance and flourish even after imperial executioners do their worst. The executed God is a force of life that is greater than all imperial powers and thus can foment the resistance and hope that all suffering peoples need.
The other day I posted a transcription of an interview with Professor Taylor, "The Beloved Community Vs. Today's Clintonian Neoliberalsim."  We talked about this day, Wednesday after the election.  What do we do now?  Both of us assumed, I think, that Clinton would win.  Now that Trump has won, the same tasks might seem clearer.   Perhaps the scales will fall from our eyes, now, that the image of America, known by so many suffering people throughout the world as a ruthless, narcissistic, imperial bully, an image that has been sustained by neoliberal policies enacted by the Clintons, is now real for Americans in the figure of Donald Trump.

Trump is the ugly face of who we really are.

On this Wednesday, I think we do a couple of things.  First, we clarify the placement of trust.  Trust in any kind of prince, Democrat or Republican is misplaced.   Our trust needs to be in "the Lord" the "executed God" that moves us toward liberation.   This Lord is found in the movements of resistance to all oppressive regimes, including our own.

Second, we follow the lead of the "radically unloved" as Mark Taylor said:
With neoliberalism the agendas for change, for “development,” are set largely by the elites of the global North and their proxies across the global South. It is top down development that usually leaves those most economically and politically impacted without voice and without an empowerment that makes for equality and the flourishing of life. 
In contrast, King’s vision of the Beloved Community works from the other direction. As Cornel West stresses in his book The Radical King, the beloved community starts not with any top-down community dynamic, nor simply with a call to build community with everyone (“Can’t we all just get along?”) No, King’s vision of a just and beloved community starts with, as West emphasizes, with love for the “radically unloved” in society. In other words, beloved community proceeds from, with and for those in socially-imposed suffering, but also in resistance as the dispossessed peoples of our time. Being transformed with and by those dispossessed by the neoliberal regimes today is the way we build beloved community. Beloved community rises from a solidarity with the movements for the radically unloved. Clintonian liberalism does not do that. Yet, there is a powerful force here that can erode empires’ power through the deep and wide working power of resolute and creative peoples. The “radically unloved” mark the suffering of the beloved community but also bring the power of resistance and liberating change that all society needs.
Thus we follow the way of "the executed God."   We start looking for and being the helpers, that begins with those who are most fearful today of what a Trump presidency will mean for them.  Now on this Wednesday we renew our commitment to be in solidarity with suffering people around the world and at home.

My church member, Chris, also posted this.   It is a good place to start:







Friday, November 04, 2016

Brain Food This Weekend

You need this.

The election drama?  You don't need that.

What else you got going this weekend?  Nothing.  If you had something better to do, you wouldn't be reading my blog.

So come to the Jesus Seminar on the Road at Southminster tonight at 7:30 and you will then want to come tomorrow, too.  85 people have already registered.  You will meet some fellow travelers.  There is plenty of room for you.

This is the end of religion as we know it.   David Galston and Joseph Bessler are talking about ways to think and talk and make community not around supernatural beliefs or creeds or dogmas, but imagine theology as art, as permission to make meaning, to draw from the wealth of our cultural heritage and change it, shape it, explore it without having to submit to someone else's view of what is "true."

Walk-ins welcome.   To get a flavor for what we will discuss, listen to my interview with one of the presenters, David Galston.





Check out what will happen this weekend!


Christianity, God, and the Future of Religion

November 4–5, 2016
Beaverton, Oregon

  • What value, if any, does God have for human life?
  • What distinguishes theologies about Jesus from the theology of Jesus?
  • Why did the Church separate itself from study of the historical Jesus?
Instead of asking whether or not God exists, modern scholarship focuses on the human Jesus, the church’s transformation of Jesus into a divine being, and the fate of religion in the future. David Galston and Joe Bessler guide us through centuries of Christian thought and ask, what is God’s human future?

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

The Best Democracy Money Can Buy

Several of us watched Greg Palast's new film, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy:  A Tale of Billionaires and Ballot Bandits.   This is a great film.  A must see.  It will make you angry but it will also inspire you to fight for democracy, especially for the rights of the poor and people of color.
When Donald Trump says, “This election is rigged”—he should know. His buddies are rigging it. 
Rolling Stone investigative reporter Greg Palast busted Jeb Bush for stealing the 2000 election by purging Black voters from Florida’s electoral rolls. Now Palast is back to take a deep dive into the Republicans’ dark operation, Crosscheck, designed to steal a million votes by November. 
Crosscheck is controlled by a Trump henchman, Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State who claims his computer program has identified 7.2 million people in 29 states who may have voted twice in the same election–a felony crime. The catch? Most of these “suspects” are minorities—in other words, mainly Democratic voters. Yet the lists and the evidence remain “confidential”. 
Palast and his investigative side-kick Badpenny do what it takes to get their hands on the data, analyze it and go find some of these 7.2 million Americans tagged “suspects” and “potential duplicate voters” whose votes are threatened this November. 
They hunt down and confront Kobach with the evidence of his “lynching by laptop.” Then they are off to find the billionaires behind this voting scam. The search takes Palast from Kansas to the Arctic, the Congo, and to a swanky Hamptons dinner party held by Trump’s sugar-daddy, John Paulson, a.k.a. “JP The Foreclosure King.” 
Palast and Badpenny stake out top GOP donors, the billionaire known as “The Vulture” and the Koch brothers, whom Palast nails with a damning tape recording. 
This real life detective story is told in a film noir style with cartoon animations, secret documents, hidden cameras, and a little help from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit detectives, Ice-T and Richard Belzer, Shailene Woodley, Rosario Dawson, Willie Nelson and Ed Asner, Palast and his associates expose the darkest plans of the uber-rich to steal America’s democracy.
Voter repression and voter suppression is a reality and Palast lays it out for us.    Here is an article he wrote about it for the Rolling Stone.   We learn about caging, purging, and what he calls the death star, interstate crosscheck.  All of these methods are removing people from the voter rolls or not counting their votes when cast.   It is ugly.  It's illegal.  It's nasty and according to Palast, it is why Bush "won" twice.  It is happening now.

See this film and show this film (we chose the $50 license fee option) wherever you can before next Tuesday.

Get active.  Here are Palast's seven ways to beat the ballot bandits.


Watch the trailer.


Monday, October 31, 2016

Why I Am Voting Yes On Measure 97

UPDATE:  Here are some places and times to knock on doors or make some calls.   It is actually fun! Go here to find out how to help.

Beaverton Office:  20450 NW Amberwood Dr #125. 
Door Knocking
Wednesday, November 2nd, 4:00-6:00 p.m. neighborhood canvass at Ridgewood Elementary
Saturday November 5, from 10am-1pm, at Beaverton office
Saturday November 5, from 10am-1pm, at McMenamin's Grand Lodge, in the Ironwork Grill
Sunday November 6, from 10am-1pm, at Beaverton office 
Phone Calling
November 2, from 4-6pm or 6-8pm at Beaverton office
November 3, from 4-6pm or 6-8pm at Beaverton office
November 4, from 4-6pm or 6-8pm at Beaverton office
November 7, from 4-6pm or 6-8pm at Beaverton office 
Portland office:  917 Lloyd Center anytime between 10AM and 9PM from now until the election!

If you haven't yet sent in your ballot, you may be undecided about measure 97. I am hoping to encourage you to fill in the oval "Yes."

We have been in Oregon nearly two years.  My wife and I moved from Tennessee.  Full disclosure--she is a music teacher in the Beaverton school district.   It was pretty amazing that she found a job.  We really couldn't believe it when we heard that music programs and teachers had been cut for budgeting reasons many years ago.    Oregonians do know that music isn't just singing campfire songs for fun, right?  When schools lack education in music and the arts, our children are crippled intellectually.   No music?  Seriously?  Tennessee is no shining star but it has music.     Oregon's philosophy seems to be,  "if you don't have money in the budget, make the kids pay" by slashing music, art, physical education, and vocational education.

If you still need to save money, keep the kids home.   We were appalled to discover that Oregon students will have completed a full year less than their Washington state counterparts by the time they graduate.   That is, if they graduate.   Oregon ranks dead last in the graduation rate.  In 2013 only 68.7% of Oregon students graduated high school, lower than any other state.   When they do attend they are packed in to crowded classrooms because even as enrollment has increased, Oregon has 2,000 less teachers now then in 2008 and it has the some of the nation's largest class sizes.  

This is a problem.  And it will get worse unless we change.

Here is the good news.  We can change it.  We can change it this week.


In addition to having one of poorest funded education systems in the nation, Oregon also has the lowest corporate tax rate.   That means large and out of state corporations take a lot of money out of Oregon but give little in return in terms of taxes.

Measure 97 is the elegant answer for Oregon.   With measure 97, after the first $25 million in sales, the tax rate goes up  to 2.5% on these corporations like Comcast.    This is not a sales tax that consumers pay.  This is not a sales tax on small businesses.  This is a tax on the biggest corporations who pay less tax in Oregon than in any other state.

You have heard and seen the ads funded by these corporations.   They are spending millions on misinformation and scare tactics such as these three statements in bold:

1)  Costs will be passed on to consumers.  No.  Prices are set nationally.  If Comcast could charge you more now, it would.  It doesn't because of competition.  The corporations will pay this tax, not the consumers.

2)  Businesses will move out of state.  That wouldn't be very smart.  They will simply lose on sales.  Many of these huge corporations are out of state already.  This tax is on sales made in Oregon.   Corporations have a sweet deal in Oregon.  It is time for them to pay their fair share.

3)  The legislature will spend the money on other things.  It says clearly in the measure itself, that this will be spent on education, healthcare and senior services:
All of the revenue generated from the increase in the tax created by this 2016 Act shall be used to provide additional funding for: public early childhood and kindergarten through twelfth grade education; healthcare; and, services for senior citizens. Revenue distributed pursuant to this section shall be in addition to other funds distributed for: public early childhood and kindergarten through twelfth grade education; healthcare; and, services for senior citizens. 
It will be the law.  Black and white.  We will all be watching that the state complies with the voters' mandate.

Objections to 97 are red herrings and actually hysteria.   Large and out of state corporations don't want to pay it.   They have enjoyed this free ride.  They will do everything they can to try to convince you that up is down and good is bad.

Measure 97 will generate three billion dollars for our children, our seniors, and for the sick, the most vulnerable in our society.  This will help make Oregon sustainable.  This is an issue of social justice.  That is why I along with many other clergy have endorsed measure 97.

I even preached a sermon about it.

Here is an interview I had with Otto Schell, legislative director of the Oregon Parent Teachers Association on KBOO.  This is a great interview to send to friends and family and post on social media.


Yes.  97.  It is right for Oregon.




Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Christian Atheists, Your Light Has Come

Here is an excellent article on the Gretta Vosper fiasco, "Unsuitable" Gretta Vosper is Why Mainline Denominations Are Dying by Christian Chiakulus.  

Christian is a Christian Atheist.

Despite the fact that people do not want Christian Atheists to exist, they do.  There are more of us than you may think.   There is no school of Christian Atheism or denominational hierarchy.  Christian Chiakulus said he came to the label by himself:

When I first took the label of “Christian atheist” for myself last year, I felt at once liberated and nervous.  Liberated because I finally found a phrase that seemed to encapsulate who I am and what I believe, and nervous because I wasn’t sure how the Progressive Christian community I had been trying to join would react.  Would I be accepted?  Ignored?  Laughed at?  Puzzled over? 
A part of my uncertainty had to do with the fact that I had come to this label on my own, not following the lead of any theologian or clergy before me.  While I eventually did learn of people like Thomas Alter, William Hamilton, and Gretta Vosper, their writings had no influence over my initial “conversion,” if you will.

The United Church of Canada is tone deaf to what people really think and has circled its wagons around beliefs and theology.   Christian writes:

At the end of the day, their concerns are over language and belief, which are really just methods of control.  Vosper dislikes using the term “God” because she feels that for some people it may act as a barrier between themselves and the type of universal love God actually stands for.  The Conference is ultimately missing the forest for the trees.
To illustrate, a commenter on one of my Facebook posts wrote:

As I get older, I understand less and less about the need for religions/churches to adhere to labeling. "I am a Christian, does that make me good? I am a Muslim, does that make me bad?" If I have to define myself, I guess it would be a seeker. Seeking what? Peace and calm for myself and helping humankind in any way I can. Where can I go to learn this - Christianity, Islam, Native American beliefs, Buddhism, Dr. Seuss, Monet, Bach, Pink Floyd, Atheism, and so much more.  I think if you really need to label, go to Office Depot, they have one on sale for $24.99.



Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Violator of Facebook Community Standards

Yes, that would be me.



Oh what has he done?! Gasp!

He posted this piece on the atheist from Canada, Gretta Vosper.  

She's a violator of community standards, too.  

When I try to post a link to my blog on Facebook, I see blue:


In my inbox of love notes from Facebook, it was because of the above post.    I guess I abused Canada.

So it goes.

Tell your friends that Shuck and Jive is back and in violation!

Update:  Facebook has removed the ban.






Monday, September 12, 2016

Deja Vu All Over Again

I served my first congregation as a minister from 1992 to 2000 in upstate New York.   The 90s were intense regarding debates and disciplinary actions against LGBT clergy.  It was in 1996 that our Book of Order had official discrimination written into it.

I was new in the ministry.  On more than one occasion I would give my annual "Sex" sermon then promptly go on vacation.   It was at my second church that I started to be more forthcoming about my views.   It was about 15 years ago, I guess, that I stated from the pulpit that I was in complete solidarity with LGBTQ clergy and with those denied ordination or stripped of ordination.  

I felt similarly yesterday.

During Sunday's sermon, I declared my stance with Gretta Vosper that I, too, am an "atheist" minister.   I put "atheist" in quotes, because I am probably more of a "non-theist" or "post-theist" perhaps even a "pantheist" or what not, but the term "atheist" is where the fire rages.  

If you asked me what the precise differences are between a non-theist, post-theist, or atheist, I'm not sure I could satisfy the question.   I just know that people get squeamish when they hear the word atheist.  They get nervous.  They put clergy on church trials even if they really have a similar philosophy.  

What is an atheist?  As I mentioned in the sermon,
You know what an atheist is? An atheist is 28-year-old law student, Nazimuddin Samad. He was hacked to death with a machete in Bangladesh in April.
He was killed for being an atheist, not a non-theist or a post-theist.

It seems pretty obvious where I need to take a side, doesn't it?

That is why Gretta (also probably a non-theist or post-theist) has declared herself an atheist in solidarity with atheists.  She has done so since 2013.    (Her theological journey resonates with many.   It would make for a good group study).

Deja vu.  I felt the same thing Sunday that I felt 15 years ago.   The same fluttering in the stomach.  The same feeling of warmth in my cheeks.  The same concern and the same hope that my congregation would understand.  

I, too, am an atheist minister.

I stood (and still stand) with my queer colleagues because I felt it was the right thing to do.

I stand with my Clergy Project colleagues (some out, some not, some in the church, some not) because I feel it is the right thing to do.  

No, the atheist movement, or whatever it is called is not the LGBTQ Movement.  It is not the Civil Rights Movement.  It is not Women's Suffrage.  It is not the Labor Movement.   It is not the Peace Movement.  Each of these movements is distinct with its own history and context.

From my vantage point, it sure feels similar.

The pushback sounds the same:

  • disciplinary action regarding a development far larger than one individual 
  • theological quibbling over correct belief and authority
  • worry over losing members
  • rush to judgment about who is in or out
  • disinterest in really learning what people are saying and experiencing
  • discomfort with the ambiguity 

And so it goes.

++++

P.S.
Facebook won't allow my blog to be posted on its site.  When I try, I receive the following message:

Warning this message contains blocked content:
Your message couldn't be sent because it includes content that other people on Facebook have reported as abusive.

Hi ho.



Thursday, September 08, 2016

Gretta Vosper is "Unsuitable"

The Toronto Conference of the United Church of Canada submitted a 39 page report concluding that Rev. Gretta Vosper is "unsuitable" for ministry. The last few pages of the report include a dissenting report from a minority of the committee.  The Global News reported on the decision with the title:

United Church panel wants Toronto atheist minister Rev. Gretta Vosper to be defrocked

Here is a bit more in-depth piece in The Toronto Star.

Earlier this year, Gretta issued her own statement in defense of her theological growth.   I think I am going to use these two documents in a class entitled, "Whither Christianity?"

For what it is worth, I am an atheist as well.  My beliefs vary little from Gretta's.  In fact, there are many ministers in a similar position.  So what now, witch hunts?  Thanks, Canada.

I thought you were supposed to be more enlightened up there?

It is a sad day for Gretta, West Hill United Church, the United Church of Canada, and church in general.   Yet, this is what it takes to move ahead.

We appreciate you, Gretta, and West Hill United Church.

For the back story, here are some of my posts on the topic.

Gretta Vosper: Can't We Talk About It?

In Support of Gretta Vosper

God?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Open Iftar at Southminster

You might be interested in my radio report on the General Assembly.  I volunteer at KBOO, 90.7 and the station ran my report as a "News In Depth" piece on June 25th.

I spoke with Rick Ufford-Chase of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, Jeffrey DeYoe of the Israel-Palestine Mission Network, Nahida Gordon, author of Palestine Is Our Home, Ray Bagnuolo of That All May Freedly Serve, Michael Zimmerman of the Clergy Letter Project, and our Stated Clerk, J. Herbert Nelson.   It is an entertaining 13 minutes from a progressive perspective.

Here is the podcast.

I have an interview with Rick Ufford-Chase coming up next week about his book, Faithful Resistance: Gospel Visions For The Church in A Time of Empire.    You will be happy with yourself if you subscribe to the Progressive Spirit podcast via iTunes or your favorite app.  

The General Assembly was fun.  Several members of Southminster participated in the mass choir and many more volunteered throughout the week.  Nice to host folks in Portland.   We hosted about 40 General Assembly participants for worship and a vegetarian potluck on June 19th.  Patricia Tull preached a powerful sermon regarding Earth Care.

At the GA,  I was tickled that evolution passed the assembly.   The General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the Clergy Letter Project.   I didn't even think it would make it to the assembly, so to have it so well-received was most gratifying.

Mr. Wadji Said of the Muslim Educational Trust of Portland offered a prayer at the beginning of the business at General Assembly.   Here is the English text:
“Allah bless us and bless our families and bless our Lord. Lead us on the straight path – the path of all the prophets: Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Peace be upon them all Amen. 
“In the name of Allah, the beneficent, the merciful, let us praise the Lord. The creator of the universe, the most merciful, the most compassionate and the Lord of the universe who has created us and made us into nations and tribes, from male and females that we may know each other, not that we might despise each other, or may despise each other. Incline towards peace and justice and trust in God, for the Lord is one that hears and knows everything and the servants of God, the most compassionate, the most merciful, gracious are those who walk in the earth in humility and when bigots and hateful and Islamaphobes address them, they say peace. Peace be upon them and peace be upon Allah.”
And the video (his prayer begins at 14:07):




I am proud of the PCUSA for choosing Mr. Said to offer this prayer.   It is an important move toward peace and a fulfillment of the PCUSA's Interreligious stance that was approved in 2014.  I am pleased to have served on the committee that worked on that stance in Detroit.

The most gratifying event happened the weekend the assembly started.  Southminster hosted the first ever Ramadan Tent Project in the United States.   In our backyard.   It was an Open Iftar for three nights, June 17, 18, and 19.    We received nice press coverage by newspaper prior to the event and KATU Channel 2 news afterward.     The Facebook site, Ramadan Tent Project Portland has some great pictures.

Across the street from my congregation is the Islamic Center of Portland.   It is the only Shia masjid in Portland and we couldn't ask for better neighbors.  They invited us to celebrate the birthdays of Mohammad and Jesus (PBUT) in December.  They overwhelmed us with hospitality (and food!).    On Earth Day, we invited them to a vegetarian potluck that we provided to discuss how our differing faith traditions inspire us to care for Earth.

My predecessor at Southminster, Peg Pfab, is on the board of the human rights council of Washington County.  She contacted me about some college students who were looking for a place to host the Open Iftar.   I contacted the leader, Sadaf Assadi, and we got the ball rolling.

Sadaf Assadi spearheaded the effort.  Here she is speaking to KATU.


To begin each of the three evenings, we gathered first to listen to speeches.




On the first night we heard from Imam Abdullah Polovina about peace and unity.




200 people attended each night.  After the speech, there was a call to prayer.   It was so beautiful to hear this prayer ring out into the neighborhood.




The Sunnis and Shias pray at slightly different times.   Here are the guidelines for when the sunset prayer or Maghrib happens.   Even as there were two different times for prayer many Sunnis and Shias and non-Muslims prayed together.   I was humbled to stand shoulder to shoulder with them in prayer that was an inter-faith and an intra-faith event.    Here is a photo of Sunnis, Shias, and several non-Muslims participating in prayer on the church lawn facing the Kaaba in Mecca.



While breaking bread, Muslims and non-Muslims shared stories and learned about one another.   I was even honored by being asked to speak on one of the evenings.  Here is the talk I gave.    Here is a picture of some of the amazing students who organized it.


The entire group!  They provided the food from various restaurants.  It was fantastic!



On night three, Aneelah Afzali spoke about the importance of getting to know Muslims to counter the organized, well-funded efforts to demonize Muslims and to divide us.


This was one of the most profound events in which I have participated.  I hope Southminster will participate again next year and I look forward to other inter-faith events with our Muslim friends.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Social Justice Committee Unable to Apologize for Spiritual Abuse of LGTBQ/Q People

Committee 11, Social Justice Issues (11-05) couldn't muster up the self-reflection to apologize to decades of spiritual abuse directed at its LGBTQ/Q members because of the PCUSA's policies and theological doctrines.  Instead the committee substituted a tepid "statement" to  LGBTQ/Q people by using the passive voice that is tantamount to "I'm sorry you feel that way."   To add salt to the wound, the substitute action the committee approved apologized in an active voice to those who left the church because they could not agree with the PCUSA's steps toward justice for LGBTQ/Q people.

To take this action following the mass slaughter in Orlando because of LGBTQ/Q hatred is particularly shameful.   I wrote about this apology previously so I will not repeat my arguments here.  Now is the time for the PCUSA to make a bold statement and a clear apology that its views have done and continue to do irreparable harm.

On Wednesday night, the assembly approved the Belhar Confession.  It reads in part:
  • that the church must therefore stand by people in any form of suffering and need, which implies, among other things, that the church must witness against and strive against any form of injustice, so that justice may roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream;
  • that the church as the possession of God must stand where the Lord stands, namely against injustice and with the wronged; that in following Christ the church must witness against all the powerful and privileged who selfishly seek their own interests and thus control and harm others.
Therefore, we reject any ideology

which would legitimate forms of injustice and any doctrine which is unwilling to resist such an ideology in the name of the gospel.
Here is an opportunity for the PCUSA to live into this new confession.  It is not a faithful interpretation to continue to express the ideology of homophobia that directly leads to violence.

The Covenant Network is wrong on this one.   The reason they are wrong is that they think it is a higher value to seek unity with those whose ideologies we must reject than to stand with those who suffer because of these ideologies.    

The plenary will have the opportunity to revisit this unfortunate action during Thursday evening's plenary.   Read more at That All May Freely Serve

Below is Ray's excellent statement to the committee:
First, I begin this time asking for silence to remember the victims of the massacre in Orlando. For this, too, is ours. Please join me in a short moment of silent prayer. Thank you.

Forty years of the struggle for inclusion in this church has produced harms, as any conflict of such magnitude and duration is sure to do.

Years of unaffirming church practices toward our LGBTQ and supportive siblings have harmed our missions our families and one another in many ways including:

- Refusal of calls for queer folk
- Exhaustive and demeaning accusations, charges and trials against us and our allies
- Loss of pension benefits, careers,
- Being outed against our wills
excluded from our worshiping families sending too many to harms worse than these

Our institution has too often permitted dysfunction to rule, confirming public suspicions that QUEER folks and their allies were unwelcome here. At times, we have spread a disenfranchising gospel, one centered on exclusion, proselytizing fear as a path to love.

It doesn't work that way.

We can change this all beginning with 11-05.
we can accelerate an institutional admission And apology that brings us together. In so doing, We can recognize the PCUSA as one of the most welcoming faith communities in the world, committed to honoring those whose injuries have been real, long lasting and unaddressed.

Orlando, 11-05 can be statement of humility and courage and hope from a mainline Protestant denomination, profoundly impacting our church and our nation, even as we grieve such unimaginable loss.

For a time such as this, we, too, have been called. To this hope in our calling we have gathered. May we be ready now.

Clergy Letter Project Passes General Assembly!

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted to endorse The Clergy Letter, 14-02 by a vcote of 374-194.   This was an overture that started with the session of Southminster Presbyterian Church.  Last Fall, Cascades Presbytery endorsed it and sent it to the General Assembly.  It received concurrences from Eastern Virginia, and Upper Ohio Valley.
 
Kathleen Huddleston, an elder from Southminster, was the Overture Advocate.  She did a fantastic job presenting the overture to the Theological Issues and Institutions Committee and it was approved by the committee 66-10.   This is something I have been working on for some time.   The approval by the denomination will help on a number of levels.  It an atmosphere of science-denial, this will put the PCUSA on record as unambiguously supporting the teaching of evolution in public schools as "a foundational scientific truth."   It will show by example that people do not have to choose between science and faith.   It will invite the church to rethink its theology and its theological symbols in light of the advances in science, particularly the challenges of evolution in regards to ideas such as Creation, Providence, and what it means to be a human being.   Rather than regard science and evolution as an enemy of faith, this overture calls the church to befriend science and learn from it.

The General Assembly also approved overture 14-13, from the Presbytery of Boston.  This overture with concurrence by Cascades, Denver, Milwaukee, and Wabash Valley, was approved by the General Assembly, 305-264.    More specific than the Clergy Letter, this new affirmation provided a list of things that we know from scientific exploration:

today with confidence we can affirm:
•              That God has been calling this universe into being for at least 13.8 billion years and continues calling upon the Creation to bring forth new creatures;
•              That God’s creative call has resulted in virtually countless stars and planetary systems, and new stars and planetary systems are continuing to be created;
•              That, in response to God’s creative call, the Earth took form at least 4.6 billion years ago;
•              That, in response to God’s call, living creatures emerged on the Earth at least 3.6 billion years ago;
•              That God has connected all life on Earth in a network of kinship by virtue of descent with modification from common ancestors;
•              That, in response to God’s call, we Homo sapiens emerged as a species over more than 6 million years of hominin development;
•              That, since our line of descent split from the line that resulted in our contemporaries, the chimpanzees and bonobos, we Homo sapiens were preceded by at least eighteen already identified hominin species, all of which are now extinct;*
•              That, in the providence of God, we Homo sapiens have come to exercise extraordinary power over other creatures and their habitats, the Earth’s geological structures, and the meteorological systems of the Earth;
•              That, by virtue of the powers of intellect and creativity called forth in us by God, we bear exceptional responsibility for the future of the Earth and all its constitutive creatures.

Since science would not speak of "God," this statement is a theological statement and invites an ongoing "interactive engagement" between theology and science.   One of the challenges for theologians is to explore what we mean by using the word "God" among other things.   

Thanks to the Presbyterian Association of Science, Technology, and the Christian Faith and in particular to Overture Advocate, Sara Joan Wasson Miles, who provided an excellent explanation of this overture to the committee.  




Monday, April 04, 2016

Why Barbara Wheeler is WRONG (Again)

Former President of Auburn Theological Seminary, Barbara Wheeler, has written an essay, entitled, "BREACH OF FAITH: Why the Apology Overture is So Wrong."   The LayMAN linked to it as well.

I will comment on her essay.  First, a word about the overture.

Overture 11-05 sent by the Presbytery of New York City with concurrence from the Chicago and Genesee Valley presbyteries recommends that the PC(U.S.A.)
"Admit that the PC(USA) has been wrong in the way it has treated the LGBTQ/Q community" 
and
"Apologize for the teachings and actions that have created marginalization of our sisters and brothers, adding to the erroneous belief that people who identify as LGBTQ/Q should be considered unworthy to serve fully or be honored as family within and without the church."
I think it is long past time for such an overture.   Let us recall what has happened in our denomination.   Until just a few years ago, LGBTQ/Q people were prevented from being ordained as officers in the church due to provisions in our constitution.  Their relationships and marriages were not recognized.  They and their allies were taken to church court for challenging these unjust provisions.  I participated in more than one presbytery meeting in which awful things were said about fellow Presbyterians who are LGBTQ/Q.

Actions, attitudes, and theological opinions against LGBTQ/Q people have damaged not only individuals but the entire PC(U.S.A.)  Those attitudes and actions and theological opinions were wrong.  After a long struggle, the denomination removed those beliefs from our official documents. That was a good thing.  Those beliefs did damage to human beings and continue to do damage.    I am amazed that LGBTQ/Q people show up for church at all.   They owe the church nothing.  The church owes them far more than a belated apology.

I could write pages on this.  But I think you get my point.

So what is up with Barbara Wheeler?   She writes in her essay that an apology to LGBTQ/Q people is a "breach of faith."
"After the ordination and same-gender marriage amendments and associated authoritative interpretations passed in quick succession, some Presbyterian evangelicals voiced their fear of being “Kenyonized”—denied ordination or punished by church courts for convictions at odds with those held by the majority. This measure, which would force many conservative evangelicals to participate in the condemnation of their own deeply-held beliefs, will be seen by many as a step in that direction."
This is the same argument we hear from evangelical Christians about how they are being persecuted and oppressed.  They will be forced to "marry the gays" and on and on.  I can see why they are afraid since they have been so skilled at actually persecuting gays for years.    But this overture is not about them.  It is about the marginalization that has been visited upon LGBTQ/Q people by the church.   It was wrong.   It is still wrong.  It still happens.

The phrase "deeply held beliefs" sounds so pious and sacred.  "These are my deeply held beliefs and no one must offend me for having them."  What are these "deeply held beliefs"?  Here is an example.  This is from the Authoritative Interpretation that darkened our denomination for 30 years:
"...homosexuality is not God’s wish for humanity. This we affirm, despite the fact that some of its forms may be deeply rooted in an individual’s personality structure....”   
“Even where the homosexual orientation has not been consciously sought or chosen, it is neither a gift from God nor a state nor a condition like race; it is a result of our living in a fallen world....”  
“As we examine the whole framework of teaching bearing upon our sexuality from Genesis onward, we find that homosexuality is a contradiction of God’s wise and beautiful pattern for human sexual relationships revealed in Scripture and affirmed in God’s ongoing will for our life in the Spirit of Christ....” 
“…the New Testament declares that all homosexual practice is incompatible with Christian faith and life....”
These are a few of the "deeply held beliefs" that were part of the official interpretation of our constitution.  These "deeply held beliefs" encouraged second-class status in church and in society for LGBTQ/Q people.  These "deeply held beliefs" provided theological justification for spiritual abuse and often violence against LGBTQ/Q people.

Those beliefs, "deeply held" as they might be, are wrong beliefs.   Believe it or not, some beliefs need to be challenged.   Even so, there are church officers who believe all kinds of wrong things.   No one is policing them.  An apology for wrong beliefs and subsequent actions based on those beliefs is not policing either.   People can still hold wrong beliefs, we are all about freedom of conscience, but that doesn't mean we as an institution will not move ahead and redress past wrongs.

She writes that the "Apology Overture
targets, scapegoats and demonizes one group, those who did not prevail in the ordination debate. It breaks our promises to respect their beliefs and actions. It violates the freedom of conscience of the minority. It is a breach of faith."
This is where she fundamentally misses the point.   People can still believe wrong things.  They still will.   It isn't about them.  This overture is about apologizing for the pain caused to LGBTQ/Q people because of wrong beliefs that had been written into our authoritative documents and wrong behavior that came from those beliefs.   The faith was "breached" long ago when this targeting, scapegoating, and demonizing of LGBTQ/Q people was the order of the day.  Now that many in the PC(U.S.A.) are changing their beliefs, those who still hold them want to cry foul and pretend they are being oppressed when they are not.    

I titled this post "Why Barbara Wheeler is WRONG (Again)", because several years ago she wrote a similar post advising the PC(U.S.A.) not to change the constitution and remove barriers to ordination.  Even though she was for changing it in theory she was against it in practice.    I responded with Why Barbara Wheeler Is WRONG.    She was wrong.  She was wrong for the same reason then as she is now.  She doesn't understand privilege.   I wrote then:
It is hard to get a grasp on privilege. Here is a seminary president, a straight person, a well-meaning liberal, bright and articulate, who has been blessed with the privilege to earn the title, elder. I don't know if it is a matter of caving under pressure or fear of success, but it seems at the moment when significant change can happen, liberals get scared. They are scared of losing the institution. Scared that conservatives will leave. Scared that demands for justice do not sound nice. 
Here's the thing.  Just because the PC(U.S.A.) voted for marriage equality and ordination, that doesn't mean that justice is fully realized.   That was only the beginning.   We still have a long way to go.  Apologizing for the pain caused by our theological views is a start.


Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Progressive Spirit

I have been producing a weekly half-hour radio program and podcast for over four years.  Nearly 190 episodes.   I am now putting it in a higher gear.   First a name change.   The show is now called Progressive Spirit.  Here is what it is about:
Progressive Spirit is a half hour program that explores the intersection of spirituality and social justice. Listen to interviews with top scholars, authors, social justice activists, and spiritual leaders from Portland and around the world.  Politics, sex, science, spirituality, justice and peace.


The old name, Religion For Life, had some marketing challenges.   Many people wouldn't listen to my show because of the name or if they listened it was often in spite of the name.   When they did listen, they would say things like, "Your show is good.  It isn't anything like the name!"

As much as I tried to make folks see it was not a program to promote religion or a specific religion but was an educational program about religion, well, meh.

The new name, Progressive Spirit, reflects the progressiveness and the spirit of the show.  It is about spirituality and social justice.   I am thrilled and grateful to KBOO 90.7 in Portland for allowing me to produce the show and to give it some air time.

On a TBA basis, you will be able to hear Progressive Spirit on KBOO during the morning affairs programming between 10 and noon, Monday through Friday.

Progressive Spirit is heard weekly on WETS 89.5 Johnson City, Tennessee, WEHC 90.7, Emory, Virginia, and WPVM 103.7 Asheville, North Carolina.    It is a fully produced 27 minute program free to stations.

You can also catch it on podcast via your favorite podcast app.  Please let me know how you listen to podcasts and I will make sure you can get Progressive Spirit on it! Podcasts are uploaded every Sunday morning at 11 Pacific Time and remain on the website indefinitely.   You can catch up on all the previous episodes!

And join me as we look ahead.  I have some great guests coming up including Ned Rosch, founder of the Portland chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, Jim Wallis, author of America's Original Sin, John Caputo, author of The Folly of God, Jay Weller, author of When God Isn't Green, and Dan Barker, author of God:  The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction.

If you have ideas for guests contact me at my new e-mail.

You can expect Progressive Spirit to be even more edgy, more socially-justice focused, and to have a wider variety of guests as now I am in Portland at one of the most progressive radio stations on the planet.

Check out KBOO's website!



Thanks for listening!

Monday, February 29, 2016

I Will Zumba My Way to General Assembly

Behold, a belly that Zumbas...


Oh, yeah, this belly will be moving to the beat of the Witherspoon Dance at General Assembly in Portland.    Registration is now open.   When you register sign up for the dance!   Come to the Voices of Sophia breakfast, too!

Here is the Winter issue of the Network News published by Presbyterian Voices for Justice.  We will have a helpful General Assembly issue out in plenty of time that will tell you exactly how to vote on each overture.

If you are looking for a place to worship on the Sunday before the
down and dirty business begins, there are plenty of fine congregations, including, ahem, Southminster!   Preaching that day will be  Dr. Patricia Tull, Presbyterian minister and A. B. Rhodes Professor Emerita of Old Testament at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary.  She is the author of Inhabiting Eden:  Christians, the Bible, and the Ecological Crisis.




I am still hoping that another presbytery will concur with Cascades Presbytery to send Overture 29, Endorsing the Clergy Letter Project, to the General Assembly.  I simply am inept at politicking for these kinds of things.  There is no web page for it.  There is no organization sending out emails and hustling up contacts.  I am afraid this fine overture will go extinct because it could not adapt to the lobbying environment.   That said, I am pleased that Cascades Presbytery approved it.   Salute!

Hope I yet hold for a concurrence.

Here is the list of overtures submitted so far.