Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Return of the King

I have been such a slacker at email and blogging lately. I suspect it's that I don't have any papers to write right now. Isn't it always when there is the least amount of time available that we have the most time for email and blogging. I've been on break from school for the last few weeks, so consequently I've been slacking.

I think also I've just been avoiding thinking about things. Despite being on break, I've still fairly busy. And on top of the busyness, there are lots of things that I should be getting done that I'm not. I have an adoption application to finish. There's something in the way of 10 pages of writing to do. And at my church job I'm having trouble recruiting for all of the teaching positions that need to be filled. I've been on break, but because of the church job, I haven't been able to completely relax. Also, I've been having extra trouble with headaches lately. All that comes together give me a block against self-reflection and communication.

So, here's an update. We're having a little trouble with the adoption process again. Guatemala doesn't think that our house is appropriate for children because we share it with three friends from school. Keep in mind here that everyone in the house is having a criminal background check and is being interviewed by our social worker. But appearantly Guatemala rejected the situation our of hand.

Just finished up a series on Advent with the Young Adult class that I teach. We did a different Gospel each week. Each week also had a fun activity attached. We drew pictures with Mark. Matthew had readers' theatre. Luke had action figures, models, and a scale map of Palestine. John had mystical special effects: an Arvo Part sound track, 20 candles, and dry ice. It rocked. We're taking next week off, but I'm thinking of taking a quick look at the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, just for fun. There are lots of great stories in there about child Jesus: truly a holy terror. Just imagine your 4 year old with divine powers.

We made a late decision to visit Melissa's parents for about a week starting on Christmas Day. Trying to figure out if I can make it down to see my family for a day or two.

I'm not very happy that The Daily Show has been on break this week.

I'm now an official member of The Order of Saint Luke now. I've been enjoying praying the daily office for several months now, and it's interesting to now be Brother David, subject to the Rule. It's good to be in community, even in dispersion.

I still have so many people to write to. Christmas. I think I'm afraid to even start. It's just the introverted me that wants to crawl in a hole and hide.

That's it for now.

Friday, December 03, 2004


In case you haven't already heard, a United Methodist clergywoman was defrocked yesterday for being lesbian. "The Rev. Irene Elizabeth “Beth” Stroud was found guilty Dec. 2 of engaging in “practices that are incompatible with Christian teachings.” After that 12-1 decision, the trial court — or jury — entered a penalty phase and voted 7-6 to strip Stroud of her ministerial credentials, effective immediately." That's from the article in the United Methodist News Service. Here's the link to the AP story.

I can't say that I'm surprised by the decision. The 2004 General Conference made it virtually impossible to rule any other way. But I am disappointed. I could respond with a theological argument, not that difficult to do, but I'd rather give a personal response. You see, I was on the other side of this issue not long ago. I agreed that homosexuality was incompatible with Christian teaching and that gays and lesbians should not be ordained or appointed. I was a member of a United Methodist church that drove out the pastor who was appointed because she is lesbian.

And then I started to get to know some of my colleagues, ministerial candidates, who also happen to be gay or lesbian. Some of them I knew before they had come out, some after. And what I found as I really thought about these friends of mine, and struggled with this issue, is that they have the gifts and graces for ministry. When it comes right down to it in Methodist polity, that's what matters: does this person have the gifts and graces for ordained ministry. And what I found is that these people, my friends and colleagues, gay and lesbian ministerial candidates, very clearly, beyond any doubt in my mind, do indeed have the gifts and graces. And I had to face the fact that if God had granted these persons the gifts and graces (to a greater degree than they are present in me in many cases), then who am I to disagree with God? If God is choosing to accomplish incredible ministry through people who happen to be lesbian or gay, then who am I to stand in God's way? If the gifts and graces are there, how can we not recognize them?

I know that there are United Methodists and other Christians out there who disagree with me on this point. I respect their opinions and their right to disagree with me. But I must at least give testimony to my conversion in this matter. I pray that we continue to struggle together.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

on being wrong

as a general rule, i try to work from the assumption that i'm wrong. now, i don't always succeed in this goal, but it something I try to do -- a sort of aspiration -- to assume that i'm wrong. i'm not sure how common it is. not sure how many others out there are trying to assume that they're wrong. i guess there must be at least a few. i started thinking about this lately after my world religions class read the rule of st. benedict. it reminded me of some those deep seated beliefs and goals of mine. that sort of deep religious humility has always been a big part of what i think religion is about. i don't think it gets much currency today. people want an empowering and uplifting kind of message, not a humble-yourself-in-the-sight-of-the-lord kind of message. we think, for the most part, that that kind of humility is dangerous. it feeds into the oppression of people. it's interesting that it the upper-class churches that seem to be more into the empowering message than some of the lower-economic ones. in any case, i'm a white american man, so i figure i can probably use a good dose of humility. if other people are to be empowered, i must be humbled. so back to the original thought about the assuming that i'm wrong. yes, that is my goal. there was a time in my life when i thought i had everything figured out. in fact, i was terribly afraid of changing my mind, so confident was i in my own right-ness. but eventually i did change my mind. i changed my mind on a great many things. so, now, like i said, i try to work from the assumption that i'm wrong. no matter how hard i try to be correct and right about something, there is no doubt in my mind that something about what i think and do will be wrong. i like to say that no one has a monopoly on the truth. in fact, truth is a pretty frustrating concept for me. i think that truth plays a really big part in lots of people's ideas about religion. for some, truth is really the central concept -- god has given us the truth and we have to share it -- we can't change god's truth and therefore we can't change -- we must protect the truth from perversion. i'm not so sure about truth. you, it plays into lots of people's ideas about ethics too. that there's some sort of universal truth which can be used as an ultimate guide for the right and wrong of things. yeah, there may be such a universal truth. i'd actually probably agree that there is a universal truth. that fits into my idea of who god is and what god is about. but, assuming there is such a truth, do we really have that kind of access to it? even the very wisest and most pius of us disagree about some of these essential truths. no, i don't think that anyone has a monopoly on the truth. that's one of the reasons that i have to work from the assuption that i'm wrong. i know enough (ha ha) to know that i don't know everything. i am wrong. not "i'm probably wrong" or "there might be something about what i think that's wrong" but "i am wrong". it's one of the few things that i hold with some certainty. so hopefully knowing that, or trying to work from that assumption will help me to keep my eyes open, to keep awake, and to keep changing. i think that's important. i am wrong, so i must change if i want to strive for something better. i have to keep my eyes open to see things and people that disagree with me but are right. just as i don't think that anyone has a monopoly on truth, so also no one has a monopoly on falsity. everyone has a little piece of the truth. everyone has a little piece of god. what kind of god would do self-revelation only once in the person of a nazorene preacher and leave the entire rest of the universe to fend for itself. no, i think god has been and is being revealed in all kinds of unexpected places. we have to keep looking for it. even the church must have the courage to say "we are wrong." we are trying our best, we are struggling for the truth and giving the best answers that we can, but in the end, at least some of what we are saying and doing is just not right. we are wrong. what do you think? is that a safe assumption? how would it change the way we live? no longer credo but erro.