Sunday, December 28, 2014


I must say ...

Friends ... 

How you bless me ...

In you laughter ...

And with your tears, too.

Life isn't always easy ...

Maybe never easy ...

But you manage to live it well.

Creatively, which amazes.

Honestly, which humbles.

With humor, which entertains.

With courage, which inspires.

Glad to be a part of your life.

I'm better ...

Because of you!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


I have very few answers, about anything.
But it's not answers the world needs.
Answers never seem to quite fit, anyway.

Maybe it's your answer.
It may not be mine.
And mine can't be yours.

Is there anything beyond answers?
A vision?
A calling of sorts?

I'd like to think there is.
I like Isaiah:
"I saw the LORD, sitting on a throne, high and lofty."

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Freedom of Conscience and Matters of Justice

We have mostly welcomed "freedom of conscience" ... even when that may have lead a pastor/session to "refrain" from just behavior, though firm lines were drawn leading up to the Civil War on slavery, and in the early 1970s, with regard to the ordination of women. On both of these matters, it was believed that a "house divided" could not serve the LORD or bear a faithful witness to the world.

With regard to the ordination of LGBTQ persons, it was saddening to me to note the numerous charges filed against pastors/sessions who, for reasons of conscience and Scripture, "violated" the "no ordination" ban for LGBTQ persons - those opposed to LGBTQ ordination were not willing to grant merit to "conscience," though now, at least on the matter or ordination, now allowed for LGBTQ persons, we grant "conscience" allowances - since ordination to local office is a matter of the local church, it's highly unlikely that any charges would be brought for not electing and ordaining an openly gay person. It will be interesting to see what would happen if a congregation nominates and elects a gay person, contrary to the wishes of the pastor. Would the pastor relent, or would the pastor invite in a neighboring pastor to preside for the ordination?

Should marriage equality become the law of the church, no pastor would be compelled to officiate at a same-gender marriage (in spite of the fears raised up on this matter by those opposed).

As you rightly note, it is a justice issue, though the opposed see it as a "biblical/tradition/theological/faith" issue. Because of the seriousness of their resistance, there's no need for them to be compelled to ordain an LGBTQ person, and if marriage equality prevails, there will be no mandate to officiate at same-gender marriage ceremonies.

I think time will take care of this, though not entirely eliminate it. After all, we still have pastors who resist the ordination of women, would not allow the knowing ordination of a gay person, and we have still church that continue to practice an institutional segregation. 

Those who cannot abide by such things have options, of course. Folks/churches can always leave. Many a pastor, lots of members, and some churches, left for the UCC to find freedom of faith and life. Others left for the PCA and EPC to find theological safety and congruence. And now, on the conservative side of things, ECO offers refuge for those opposed to the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the life of the church.

In the matters of local ordination, and in the matter of marriage equality (should that come to pass), "freedom of conscience" is operative, in spite of the fact that those who favor ordination and marriage equality see it as a matter of justice. And why? It's a matter of kindness, recognizing that the "purity" of the church is hard to define, but the "unity" of the church isn't.

Friday, December 12, 2014

New Days for the PCUSA

Pondering, pondering, pondering ... I do that a lot in the early morning hours, and it was earlier than usual this morning because of the storm, that came like a freight train, roaring winds and pounding rain.

So, here I am ... the storm has settled down into a steady rain ... and I'm still pondering ... encourage by the latest Presbyterians Today Magazine and a few stories about renewal, recovery and hope.

Looking back over my years of ministry, I think the #PCUSA spent a lot of time apologizing to the world (nothing entirely wrong with that), but much of it, I fear, was driven by the evangelical onslaught constantly throwing into our face "our many failures" ...

Membership loss, a sign of apostasy.
Preaching that doesn't save souls.
Confusion about Scripture.
Uncertainty about Jesus Christ.
Failure to support international mission.
Disregarding Scripture, first with women, and then homosexuality.
A left-wing social gospel prompted more by Marx than Mark.
Secular humanism.
A general abandonment of all things godly.

We can learn from our critics, and there are things here to ponder.

But this I know, we were knocked for a loop, and we felt bad. We felt bad about our losses, our confusion and our many sins. We hung our heads and moped around. We read books about "evangelical success" and wondered where we all went wrong.

The evangelicals were relentless in their criticism, and with each decade, some found one more reason to leave the PCUSA, to affiliate with a more conservative group or to start a new denomination. And we hung our heads and moped around, wondering what was wrong with us.

These days, though, I think we're pretty much done hanging our heads and moping around. For a lot of reasons, we've taken a deep breath and are finding ourselves again ... and learning that we can't be all things to all people. We can't ordain women and not ordain women. We can't ordain gays and lesbians and not ordain them. We can't be interfaith and reject other faiths. We can't welcome the latest in biblical scholarship and reject biblical scholarship. We can't read Genesis 1 and 2 literally and metaphorically. All of these are mutual polar opposites. After the last 50 years, we're learning that our "sins" weren't so sinful after all, and as much as some would love to see the "uneasy coalition" of interests and purpose remain intact, the settling out of the PCUSA is healthy and good.

There comes a time when some have to go this way and others that way.

It's all right.

In the PCUSA air I breath these days, heads are held higher and hearts beat with fresh hope. Yes, we have our issues, and that'll always be the case. But fresh winds are blowing, the sky is clearing, and the storms have passed.

It's a new day for the PCUSA ... and I affirm these essentials:

At our best, we are a tradition that:

Affirms and welcomes biblical scholarship ...
Resists fear and despondency ...
Affirms and welcomes everyone ...
Supports marriage equality and civil rights ...
Rejects the harsh rules and values of consumer capitalism ...
Affirms the role of government in the welfare of the people ...
Stands in solidarity with other faiths and celebrates the goodness of Jesus the Christ ...
Sings hymns, psalms and praise choruses ...
Welcomes missional, emergent, traditional and progressive insights ...
Works all around the world with faith, hope and love ... not afraid of the world, finding more friends than enemies, never threatened by other traditions and philosophies, eager to learn from all and eager to share what God has kindly given to us.

There's more to the story, I know ... and we'll discover more of ourselves as God shapes us for the remaining 21st Century ... learning by the love of Christ, to walk with heads held high enough to see the Christ lifted up, and to walk gladly in this world of ours, humbly because our sins are many and there's still so much more to learn, and gratefully, because God's grace is greater still.

The storm has passed, at least for now, and the rains are gentle. God's peace to the PCUSA, and in all things, "let our light shine before others, so they may see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven."

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Two Kinds of Knowledge

How does one know anything?

That's a great mystery, actually.
One for philosophers and theologians.

I guess for some, it's rather clear.
If I know how to drill a well,
I get oil.
That's what might be called "controlling knowledge."

If, on the other hand, I love someone.
And want to know them.
They remain elusive.
I can't drill into them.
I can't extract anything.

I can know them only
By receiving them.
Into my life.
It's called "receiving knowledge."

The former requires distance.
Even coolness.
A sense of overcoming.
To study and ascertain.
To conquer in the controlling.
To make something.

The latter needs closeness.
Trust and desire.
A willingness to surrender.
To ponder and enjoy.
To give in the receiving.
To love someone.

Woe to the one who confuse
These two kinds of knowledge.

Who hasn't tried the former when
The latter was needed?

Who hasn't regretted
All that was lost
When the control
Blew up?

But blessed are those who receive.
Who surrender.
To know the unknowable:
The Mystery of it all.
The life and wonder:
Of a lover.
A child in one's arms.
A friend across the table.
A stranger who really isn't a stranger at all.
Even God, for that matter.

Who cannot be controlled.
But only received.

"Here I am, LORD,
Said Mary!
And so it was!

A receiving knowledge,
Her glory.
"Blessed are you among women.
And blessed is the fruit of your womb."