Thursday, August 30, 2007

Prayer for Today--Peace in Troubled Times

This prayer adapted from today's Beliefnet Prayer for Today

Prayer for Peace in Troubled Times

Dear God, in these troubled times make your presence known to all the peoples around the world so that they may know peace. Replace the anger and violence in our hearts with joy and tranquility and help us to seek the good in everyone. Cause us all to realize that without love, we can do nothing that will bring us peace and joy. Amen.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Holier than Thou, NOT.

This is what happens when people/political parties try to set up a standard of moral/ethical behavior and run politically on this standard...

Turns out that in the end we are all just human in oh so many different ways!

I love the image of Reed pulling his hair out that comes to my mind when reading this article in the NYTimes today. Here's a brief quote:

It is enough to make a self-respecting Republican want to tear his hair out in frustration, especially as the party is trying to defend an unpopular war, contain the power of the new Democratic majority on Capitol Hill and generate some enthusiasm among voters heading toward the presidential election in 2008.

“The real question for Republicans in Washington is how low can you go, because we are approaching a level of ridiculousness,” said Mr. Reed, sounding exasperated in an interview on Tuesday morning. “You can’t make this stuff up. And the impact this is having on the grass-roots around the country is devastating. Republicans think the governing class in Washington are a bunch of buffoons who have total disregard for the principles of the party, the law of the land and the future of the country.”

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Bigger They Are...

The harder they fall. It was disclosed today that Republican Idaho Senator Larry Craig was arrested in Minneapolis in June and charged with "inappropriate" behavior at MSP airport. he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge. It hasn't been a good day for the GOP. What does that G stand for anyway?

Anarchists to hold planning meeting

Isn't this an oxymoron? This is the headline in a Star Tribune article about plans for anarchist protest next year at the GOP convention in the Twin Cities.

A Prayer for Everyday Blessings

Dear God,
Open my eyes to the beauty of this day.
The yellow of an egg yolk in a blue bowl.
The scent of bacon frying in the pan.
The soft caress of the morning breeze.
The sound of children at play.
Awaken my senses.
Let me see, hear, and feel the beauty around me.
And be aware of the presence of the Great Artist in my everyday world.

- William Webber

Appropriate for many faiths
source: "Prayers for Every Need: Volume One: Celebration” (Guideposts)

Gonzales Gone

How bad is it inside the White House? In a matter of weeks the President loses his two most trusted friends and advisers, Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales. The two men who have done the most inside the administration - aside from the Vice President - to turn the entire federal government into a political arm of the Republican Party. Gonzales may be the most inept and dishonest Attorney General the country has ever known.

So now it will be interesting to see if the President chooses to nominate a replacement who will have to go through Senate confirmation, or if he will try and skirt the confirmation process in some way and ride out the rest of his term with an acting AG. And if he does nominate someone for confirmation it will be interesting to see if the Dems in the Senate show any spine and refuse to confirm anyone who is a pal or member of the President's political circle. The possible nomination of Homeland Security head Michael Chertoff, for instant, should be dead in the water. We need an outside, independent, widely trusted nominee.

The President has just said that it is "sad that the good name of Alberto Gonzales has been dragged through the mud for political reasons." This man has completely mastered the skill of speaking bald-faced lies with a straight face.

Update: Via Talking Points Memo the best quote so far on the Gonzales legacy:
...from Rep. Rahm Emmanuel (D-IL): "Alberto Gonzales is the first Attorney General who thought the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth were three different things."

Michael Vick Finds Jesus

I am listening on CNN to (former?) Atlanta Falcons star quarterback Michael Vick apologize for his crime of organizing illegal dog-fighting and relate gambling operations. With sentencing yet to come and a possible long jail term facing him, he was appropriately contrite. And not surprisingly I suppose, he said that through this event he "found Jesus" and is going to turn his life over to God. "I think that is the right thing to do right now," he said. Right now?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mind Over Mind

This very exciting article was in today's NYTimes about the possibility of using "realtime" MRIs to train your brain and treat a variety of ailments in a form of "selfhelp"...In the meantime, I'll keep working on developing a yoga and meditation practice...

Friday, August 24, 2007

Equally Speaking at the Human Rights Campaign

HRC has had two "big news days" in a row--today and yesterday.

If you'd like to listen too, here's the link:

Learning from Jesus

From today...

Ten Ways Jesus Showed Love
By Stephen Post

Jesus expressed his great love for people in ten dramatic ways. The gospels show us his immense compassion for the suffering, his attentive listening presence, and his energetic celebration of the lives around him. Explore this gallery to see how Jesus demonstrated agape--the Greek word for unconditional, self-sacrificing love--and what we can learn from him.

Adapted from Why Good Things Happen to Good People with permission of Broadway Books.

Mother Teresa's Dark Night of the Soul

The correspondence of Mother Teresa will forever change our impression of this women who gave her life to serving the needs of the poor in Calcutta, India. All her life in public she spoke consistently about the link between her work and her faith in God. But thanks to a new book, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, we learn in her private correspondence that from the moment she began her work in India she struggled with doubt and a spiritual emptyness that never left her. From an article in Time magazine:

Lord, my God, who am I that You should forsake me? The Child of your Love — and now become as the most hated one — the one — You have thrown away as unwanted — unloved. I call, I cling, I want — and there is no One to answer — no One on Whom I can cling — no, No One. — Alone ... Where is my Faith — even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness & darkness — My God — how painful is this unknown pain — I have no Faith — I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart — & make me suffer untold agony.

So many unanswered questions live within me afraid to uncover them — because of the blasphemy — If there be God — please forgive me — When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven — there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives & hurt my very soul. — I am told God loves me — and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?
This was from 1959. As late as 1995, two years before her death she was still writing about her "spiritual dryness." According to the article in Time while she struggled with the meaning of this emptyness her entire life in Calcutta, over time she came to accept it as part of her calling:
If I ever become a Saint — I will surely be one of 'darkness.' I will continually be absent from Heaven — to [light] the light of those in darkness on earth.
That's a remarkable statement from a women renowned both for her work and for the faith that guided her life. But what we now know is that for 50 years she did courageous work among some of the poorest people on earth in spite of the fact that faith in God eluded her.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Onward Christian Soldiers

An Op-ed in yesterday's Los Angeles Times challenges the evangelical tilt of our military:
Maybe what the war in Iraq needs is not more troops but more religion. At least that's the message the Department of Defense seems to be sending.

Last week, after an investigation spurred by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, the Pentagon abruptly announced that it would not be delivering "freedom packages" to our soldiers in Iraq, as it had originally intended.

What were the packages to contain? Not body armor or home-baked cookies. Rather, they held Bibles, proselytizing material in English and Arabic and the apocalyptic computer game "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" (derived from the series of post-Rapture novels), in which "soldiers for Christ" hunt down enemies who look suspiciously like U.N. peacekeepers.

The packages were put together by a fundamentalist Christian ministry called Operation Straight Up, or OSU. Headed by former kickboxer Jonathan Spinks, OSU is an official member of the Defense Department's "America Supports You" program. The group has staged a number of Christian-themed shows at military bases, featuring athletes, strongmen and actor-turned-evangelist Stephen Baldwin. But thanks in part to the support of the Pentagon, Operation Straight Up has now begun focusing on Iraq, where, according to its website (on pages taken down last week), it planned an entertainment tour called the "Military Crusade."

Apparently the wonks at the Pentagon forgot that Muslims tend to bristle at the word "crusade" and thought that what the Iraq war lacked was a dose of end-times theology.

In the end, the Defense Department realized the folly of participating in any Operation Straight Up crusade. But the episode is just another example of increasingly disturbing, and indeed unconstitutional, relationships being forged between the U.S. military and private evangelical groups.

Take, for instance, the recent scandal involving Christian Embassy, a group whose expressed purpose is to proselytize to military personnel, diplomats, Capitol Hill staffers and political appointees. In a shocking breach of security, Defense Department officials allowed a Christian Embassy film crew to roam the corridors of the Pentagon unescorted while making a promotional video featuring high-ranking officers and political appointees. (Christian Embassy, which holds prayer meetings weekly at the Pentagon, is so entrenched that Air Force Maj. Gen. John J. Catton Jr. said he'd assumed the organization was a "quasi-federal entity.")

The Pentagon's inspector general recently released a report recommending unspecified "corrective action" for those officers who appeared in the video for violating Defense Department regulations. But, in a telling gesture, the report avoided any discussion of how allowing an evangelical group to function within the Defense Department is an obvious violation of the establishment clause of the 1st Amendment.

The extent to which such relationships have damaged international goodwill toward the U.S. is beyond measure. As the inspector general noted, a leading Turkish newspaper, Sabah, published an article on Air Force Maj. Gen. Peter Sutton, who is the U.S. liaison to the Turkish military -- and who appeared in the Christian Embassy video. The article described Christian Embassy as a "radical fundamentalist sect," perhaps irreparably damaging Sutton's primary job objective of building closer ties to the Turkish General Staff, which has expressed alarm at the influence of fundamentalist Christian groups inside the U.S. military.

Our military personnel swear an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, not the Bible. Yet by turning a blind eye to OSU and Christian Embassy activities, the Pentagon is, in essence, endorsing their proselytizing. And sometimes it's more explicit than that.

That certainly was the case with Army Lt. Gen. William "Jerry" Boykin, deputy undersecretary of Defense for intelligence. The Pentagon put him in charge of the hunt for Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda in 2003. The same year, Boykin was found to be touring American churches, where he gave speeches -- in uniform -- casting the Iraq war in end-times terms. "We're in is a spiritual battle," he told one congregation in Oregon. "Satan wants to destroy this nation . . . and he wants to destroy us as a Christian army." The story wound up in newspapers, magazines and on "60 Minutes." And, of course, it was reported all over the Muslim world. The Pentagon reacted with a collective shrug.

American military and political officials must, at the very least, have the foresight not to promote crusade rhetoric in the midst of an already religion-tinged war. Many of our enemies in the Mideast already believe that the world is locked in a contest between Christianity and Islam. Why are our military officials validating this ludicrous claim with their own fiery religious rhetoric?

It's time to actively strip the so-called war on terror of its religious connotations, not add to them. Because religious wars are not just ugly, they are unwinnable. And despite what Operation Straight Up and its supporters in the Pentagon may think is taking place in Iraq, the Rapture is not a viable exit strategy.

Vietnam Lessons

Jim Henley responds to the President's attempt to rewrite history in Vietnam while creating his own moment of awful history in Iraq:

One more time. Millions of people died while we were there. A fair proportion of them were people we ourselves killed. In any reckoning of the costs of intervening and withdrawing from Indochina, those people count too. It’s a bizarre, narcissistic blind spot to imagine otherwise.

Which brings us to Iraq, per the President’s insistence. It is possible that if we leave, hundreds of thousands will die and millions be displaced. That has already happened under our government’s tender and expert care. There is no short-term prospect that it will stop happening. But I guess if you die while the US is around, you have the comfort of knowing we were trying.

More were killed in Vietnam and Cambodia during the American phase of the war than were killed afterwards in the killing fields of Cambodia and the re-education camps of Vietnam. It won't surprise me if we get the same kind of grim statistics coming out of Iraq when it is all said and done. Ending the war will likely be ugly for the Iraqis however and whenever it happens. But it has already been very ugly.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

It's Not Biblical Authority That Divides Us

In our current disagreement in the COB about homosexuality, we frequently hear people say that the "real" issue is not homosexuality, the real issue is biblical interpretation. Either the Bible is "true" or it isn't; it's that simple.

What always comes to mind when I hear this kind of argument is a lesson from our nation's history: Christian attitudes to slavery. Why did Baptists and Presbyterians split apart over the issue of slavery? They were, as Lincoln famously said, both reading the same Bible and praying to the same God. And yet they came out on opposite sides of the slavery issue.

There is a short and interesting case study of this issue online here. It's a paper written by a pastor in the Churches of God looking at how the issue of slavery split his denomination.

When the Civil War broke out the at a meeting of the Churches of God in the north:
"The seventh triennial meeting of the General Eldership of the Church of God in North America passed as one of their resolutions: "We declare it to be our solemn conviction that the chief and operative cause of the present rebellion is American slavery." The Church took the stand that slavery was not scriptural. The seventh annual Eldership of the Churches of God in West Ohio passed:
. . . . . . . .
2. Resolved, that all slaveholding and chatteling of humanity is manstealing, that it denies the first right of manhood, life, and liberty and the right to pursue happiness--degrades human beings to the level of brutes--turns human flesh, blood, bones, sinews, nerves and muscles into articles of merchandise--sets a price on souls, morals, religion and the image of God, and denies the very central idea on which Christianity is based, the common blood and brotherhood of man; and all who perpetrate said sin are classified by Paul, along with lawless, disobedient, ungodly, unholy and profane sinners, such as murderers of fathers and mothers, manslayers and whoremongers, liars and perjurers.
3. Resolved, that the whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual [7] exercise of the most boisterous passions--the most unremitting despotism on the one part and degrading submission on the other.
4. Resolved, that the Bible neither sanctions, tolerates, regulates, nor permits, directly or indirectly, but in letter and spirit is opposed to slaveholding in any member of the Kingdom of Christ.
5. Resolved, Inasmuch as the Bible stands opposed to oppression, inhumanity and injustice, as is embodied in the Slave Traffic, therefore, we, taking the Bible for our criterion, cannot conscientiously and religiously unite in church or Christian fellowship with any man or woman who justifies or has fellowship, or persists in the sinful practice of buying, selling or holding any human being in bondage.
But at the fourth annual meeting of the Texas Churches of God in 1860 the Texas Eldership took the opposite view. They argued that slavery was sanctioned by the Bible and charged that the northern church was departing from the reading of scripture:
WHEREAS, A part of the members of the Church of God in the North have become ultra upon the present political issues between the North and the South, and have declared the systems of servitude as laid down in the Bible as evil, and incompatible with the interest of the American people,
AND WHEREAS, they have by so doing, violated our Book of discipline, the New Testament, which is our only rule of faith and practice, and recognized by the church, as sufficient, without any human legislation upon it whatever,
AND WHEREAS, the course pursued by a few, in publishing antislavery resolutions, and other articles of similar character, in the Church Advocate, which have embarrassed and brought us into serious and great difficulties, owing to the fact that the mass of the people do not understand our system of church cooperation,
AND WHEREAS, Their course has subjected us to an unnecessary persecution, and greatly militated against the work of reformation of the South,
AND WHEREAS, they have, by so doing, seceded from the early practice of the church, and do not, (as they once did) stand upon our creed, (the Bible), but have virtually joined issue with that portion of the Bible, which exhorts servants to be obedient to their masters, which course of theirs is contrary to the letter, spirit, and design of the Gospel. And in as much as we are taught in the Bible, "to be subject to the powers that be, and obey them which rule over us," which most emphatically implies obedience to the laws of our land…
What I find interesting in this example is the way both appealed to scripture but the nature of their appeal was very different. The northern group appealed to scriptural principles: "the Bible stands opposed to oppression, inhumanity and injustice." The southern church quoted scripture: "servants to be obedient to their masters."

Who was reading scripture correctly? The truth is that both sides were reading scripture through the lens of their cultural situations; slavery just was not as deeply ingrained in northern culture as it was in southern culture. (We always read scripture through the lens of our cultural settings; we can't help it; we can be aware of it if we want to be but we can't help it.) Southern Christians read their Bibles and viewed slavery through the lens of a culture steeped in and dependent upon the institution of slavery. They used their Bibles to justify this cultural understanding and didn't have any trouble finding scriptures to support their perspective.

And they were wrong. They were wrong about the way they read scripture even though the passages that supported their position were in the Bible. But they were more wrong about the issue of slavery because whatever a particular passage of the Bible said about it, it was wrong to enslave humans. And slavery was the real issue, not biblical interpretation.

And so, I believe, it is the same with the issue of homosexuality. Despite what we often hear, the real issue is not biblical interpretation. Conservatives would like to say that they are taking scripture more seriously than others. I disagree. We both read the same Bible. I know there are passages in scripture that condemn the practice of homosexuality (though biblical writers knew nothing of homosexual orientation). But what I read in my Bible is that the Bible stands against oppression, inhumanity and injustice. That is in there too, and I personally think those biblical themes are more important than any handful of passages that can be marshaled to support an anti-homosexual position.

The really important question, though, is why do we read our bibles differently? Its the sum total of the cultural history and personal makeup we bring to the issues that divide us that make us come out on different sides. It is this "package" that we bring to whatever hotbutton issues of the day divide us. Then it was slavery. Today it is the place of women in church and society or acceptance or not of same-sex relationships. We respond to these issues out of this package; we bring this package to the reading of the Bible. And not surprisingly given the presence of different voices in scripture, it isn't that difficult to find Biblical support for our various positions.

I guess this is my way of saying that I am one person who doesn't buy the argument that what really divides us is biblical interpretation or authority. What really divides us are our deeply felt and held beliefs about issues. Our biblical interpretations follow, support, and justify.

Pep Talk!

This was on my e-mail today. "Thoughts from the Masters"...


"Apathy can be overcome by enthusiasm, and enthusiasm can be aroused by two things: first, an idea which takes the imagination by storm; and second, a definite, intelligible plan for carrying that idea into action." -- Arnold Toynbee

"Enthusiasm is the best protection in any situation. Wholeheartedness is contagious. Give yourself, if you wish to get others." -- David Seabury

"You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm." -- Sidonie Gabrielle Colette

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Imperial America

Over at Salon, Glenn Greenwald has a couple of excellent posts up (here and here) on the way the foreign policy establishment in America today is dominated by those who advocate American empire building and who think of war as a legitimate tool to be used not simply to respond to an attack but to be used whenever it suits our interests. We are the only country in the world today who can, and therefore who does, do this. A couple of good quotes:
...Put simply, there is no reasonable way to compare the use of military force by the U.S. to any other country on the planet. We spend more on our military than every other country combined. We spend six times more on our military than China, the next largest military spender. And it is a bipartisan consensus that, even as the sole remaining superpower, we should increase both military spending and the size of our military further still.

No country can even remotely compare to us in terms of the sheer magnitude of invasions, bombing campaigns, regime changes, occupations and other forms of direct interference via military force in sovereign countries. We have military bases in well over 100 nations. In the last 10 years alone, we bombed Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Sudan, Afghanistan again, Somalia, and Iraq again. Even after the end of the Cold War, we changed the governments of multiple countries from Panama to Iraq, and we've attempted (or are attempting) to do so in Iran and Venezuela. We single-handedly prop up tyrannical governments in scores of nations using financial and military aid. No other country can hold a candle to the breadth and frequency of our involvement in the affairs of other countries. That is just fact.

Obviously, that we intervene, bomb and invade far more than any other country is not, standing alone, proof that our various military campaigns are unjust. But it is rather compelling evidence that we have a far lower hair-trigger for when we use military force than any other country in the world, and we use our military force in far more places and with a far wider range of motives and reasons than any other country...

Whatever else is true, the U.S. -- over the last six years -- commenced and continues to wage the most disastrous (and possibly most unjust) war in its history and has adopted policies that have fundamentally eroded our national character and violated everything we claimed to have stood for. As a matter of undeniable, empirical fact, our standing in the world has completely collapsed. Our vaunted Foreign Policy establishment has voiced little resistance to any of this and offered much support, indispensable support, and continues to do so. It has learned nothing. Its orthodoxies are the same, its leaders unchanged, and virtually nothing has been re-evaluated...

The most significant "off limits" topic is whether the U.S. has the right to run around using military force against other countries whenever we perceive that our vaguely defined "national interests" are served by doing so. In defending the Community, Drezner specifically identifies that belief as the common, defining principle to which all members subscribe. In a different way, Farley argued the same thing:

First things first, I don't think that Greenwald is quite right about the "foreign policy community," because I suspect that members of the community don't think about such questions in the way that Glenn frames them. As Drezner hints at, experts and scholars in this area don't really think in terms of the "right to intervene", or whether US policy is "inherently good". They sometimes think about the greater good, but they more often think about US interests.
This is true. There are no debates in the Community about whether the U.S. has the right to start wars even when our national security is not threatened. And to Drezner, anyone who rejects that notion -- anyone who, for instance, believes that the U.S. should not start wars unless necessary for our self-defense -- can be dismissed as a "pacifist." But the notion that the U.S. should not attack another country unless that country has attacked or directly threatens our national security is not really extraordinary. Quite the contrary, that is how virtually every country in the world conducts itself, and it is a founding principle of our country...

It may very well serve our "national interests" to start a war because we want to control someone else's resources, or because we think it would be good if they had a different government, or because we want the world to fear us, or because we want to change the type of political system they have, or because they aren't complying with our dictates, or because we want to use their land as military bases, or because they are going to acquire weapons we tell them they are not allowed to have. But those who believe that war is justifiable and desirable under those circumstances are, by definition, espousing an imperial ideology.

Ruling the world that way through superior military force -- starting wars even when our national security is not directly at risk -- is the definitional behavior of an empire...
This is who we have become as a nation. And as Greenwald says, to even question whether this is who we ought to be, is to find oneself being dismissed as a loony leftist.

Pop Culture Icons' Effect on Ecology

I get The Grist online. Along with giving me an education in all things ecological, it has some fun and entertaining pieces too.

For example, today it has a quote by that troubled troubadour, Lindsay Lohan, on how her out-of-control life detracts from serious issues:

and then they contrast her statement with another also made recently by the tremendously talented, Leonardo DiCaprio:

DiCaprio has a new documentary on the ecological crisis that he has produced and narrates coming out soon which I would love to see. It also makes me want to watch the movie "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" again which stars both DiCaprio, Juliet Lewis, and Johnny Depp before they were famous. I love that movie and it has been a number of years since I've seen it.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Arthur Miller's Missing Act

Arthur Miller was a storied playwright with a life that almost matched the drama of his plays. But there is one part of his life he never talked about. Vanity Fair tells the story of Daniel Miller, Arthur's son born in 1966 with Down syndrome:
No photograph of him has ever been published, but those who know Daniel Miller say that he resembles his father. Some say it's the nose, others the mischievous glimmer in the eyes when he smiles, but the most telling feature, the one that clearly identifies him as Arthur Miller's son, is his high forehead and identically receding hairline. He is almost 41 now, but it's impossible to say whether his father's friends would notice the resemblance, because the few who have ever seen Daniel have not laid eyes on him since he was a week old. When his father died, in February 2005, he was not at the funeral that took place near Arthur Miller's home, in Roxbury, Connecticut. Nor was he at the public memorial service that May, at Broadway's Majestic Theatre, where hundreds of admirers gathered to pay homage to his father, who was, if not the greatest American playwright of the last century, then certainly the most famous. In the days after his death, at the age of 89, Arthur Miller was eulogized around the world. Newspaper obituaries and television commentators hailed his work—including those keystones of the American canon Death of a Salesman and The Crucible—and recalled his many moments in the public eye: his marriage to Marilyn Monroe; his courageous refusal, in 1956, to "name names" before the House Un-American Activities Committee; his eloquent and active opposition to the Vietnam War; his work, as the international president of pen, on behalf of oppressed writers around the world. The Denver Post called him "the moralist of the past American century," and The New York Times extolled his "fierce belief in man's responsibility to his fellow man—and [in] the self-destruction that followed on his betrayal of that responsibility."
How could a man who was so adept at exploring the ethical implications of the human drama and so right on some of the great moral questions of his day be so tone deaf in his own family? And how is Daniel Miller? Read the article to find out. It's a good read.

Prayer for Today

May There Be Peace Within

May you trust your highest power that you are exactly where you are meant to be...
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you...
May you be content knowing you are a child of God...
Let this presence settle into our bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of you...

- Author Unknown

From's Prayer for the Today

Friday, August 17, 2007

New York Times Article on the recent Luthern Vote

I found this article in the New York Times today helpful to interpret exactly what the vote by the Lutherans last week actually means from a practical standpoint. I know that some of the GLBT clergy working for Goodsoil are disappointed that delegates didn't make a more sweeping change. This is a first step.

This article also answers one big question that had been on my mind for weeks now: What happened to Brad Schmeling (no longer a Rev.) in Atlanta who was defrocked for being in a committed same-sex relationship? Answer: His congregation has voted to retain him as their pastor anyway so now the bishop has to decide whether to punish the congregation and under the new resolution has leeway not to discipline them.

Here's the full article--it's not too long and worth the read.

Advocates Hail Lutheran Act on Gay Clergy Members

Published: August 17, 2007

The country’s largest Lutheran denomination officially bars openly gay people from the ministry. But in a move that advocates for gay men and lesbians are hailing as a step toward changing that policy, the denomination is urging its bishops to refrain from disciplining gay members of the clergy who are in committed same-sex relationships.

Church officials said it did not signal a change in policy. But they said that a denomination task force was completing “a social statement,” or theological document, on human sexuality, to be discussed in 2009, and that the resolution allowed bishops to hold off, in the interim, on taking action against gay and lesbian ministers in their jurisdictions.

Robert Tuttle, counsel to the bishop of the synod of metropolitan Washington, D.C., said, “What it changes is that it gives bishops some cover who want to exercise discretion to not bring charges.”

Supporters of the ordination of openly gay men and lesbians hailed the vote.

“Full inclusion and acceptance is still down the road, but the dam of discrimination has been broken,” said Emily Eastwood, executive director of Lutherans Concerned/North America. “The church is on the road to acceptance.”

Lutherans who consider open homosexuality incompatible with biblical teachings played down the vote, however, saying it still left the decision to press for discipline at the discretion of bishops.

“I’ve talked to a lot of bishops about this,” said Paull Spring, former bishop of the synod of western Pennsylvania and a member of a traditionalist group, Lutheran CORE. “Many have said they have no intention of exercising restraint.”

Indeed, the resolution cannot stay the hand of a bishop intent on disciplining an openly gay or lesbian pastor. It also does not prevent disciplinary proceedings from being initiated by other sources like a group of priests that turns to the denomination’s disciplinary committee, Mr. Tuttle said.

But initiating disciplinary procedures is an enormous drain of time and energy at a synod, and that already acts as restraint on many bishops, Mr. Tuttle said.

In addition, because the resolution “prays, urges and encourages” bishops to refrain from discipline, those who do pursue such steps risk being seen as divisive, said Phil Soucy, a spokesman for Goodsoil, a coalition of groups within the church that backs greater rights for gay men and lesbians.

The vote was too late to prevent the defrocking of Bradley Schmeling as pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Atlanta, who had told his congregation and his bishop that he was in a long-term same-sex relationship.

But Mr. Schmeling’s congregation intends to keep him as its pastor. The resolution permits his bishop, the Rev. Ronald Warren, to forgo disciplining the congregation for retaining him.

“I’m disappointed that they couldn’t fully change the policy,” Mr. Schmeling said. “But I think it’s a big step forward for us. For the first time, the church is saying that there are partnered gay and lesbian pastors who are serving faithfully and well in our church, and they should stay in place for sake of the mission of the church.”

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Prayer for Today

Prayer for Kindness

Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be a lamp unto those who walk in darkness, and a home to the stranger. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be a breath of life to the body of humankind, a dew to the soil of the human heart, and a fruit upon the tree of humility.

- Bahá'u'lláh

Baha'i, appropriate for many faiths

(Today's prayer from

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Definition of Spirituality

This morning my Beliefnet Daily Buddhist Wisdom is a definition of spirituality from His Holiness the Dali Lama. I like it and thought I'd share it...

Spirituality I take to be concerned with those qualities of the human spirit—such as love and compassion, patience, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony, which bring happiness to both self and others.

-His Holiness the Dalai Lama
From "The Pocket Zen Reader," edited by Thomas Cleary, 1999. Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Boston,

Preparing to Cross the Jordan

by The Rev Brad Froslee

For forty years the Israelites wandered and wondered in the wilderness unsure exactly what God’s plans were and where exactly the road would lead them. While the chains of outright abuse and oppression had been left in Egypt, it would be a long road to freedom. There would be quarrels, questions of faith, and questioned commitment to God as the motley crew made their way to the Promised Land.

Now, for nearly forty years the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and its predecessor bodies have been wandering and wondering in the wilderness in discussing, quarreling, questioning, and wrestling with faith alongside the issue of sexuality. The question before us now is whether we are prepared to trust the Spirit’s leading and cross into a promised land.

Imagine with me for a moment the thoughts, emotions, and dreams, as Joshua and the Hebrew people crossed from forty years in the wilderness into the Promised Land. What joy and outright giddiness! Imagine also the sense of loss as they stood ready to create a new life for the people of Israel; yet knowing that it would be different from the life and times of their ancestors and that there would be a shift in generational leadership. As Moses saw the Promised Land from one side of the Jordan, the people of Israel moved forward and gave way to God’s leading and evolving promise. Alongside the joy and hope, the sense of loss and longed for promise, there was likely also a sense trepidation in taking next steps—knowing that the land before them would hold challenge even as they lived into God’s promise. What a sense of responsibility! God now entrusted them with a promise and a land and they were coming home as a changed people—changed by God’s presence and the experiences on the “road out” of oppression.

As a teenager I questioned and quarreled with faith—with God. I found myself living in a wilderness. Growing up in West Central Minnesota I was well aware of the comments, the names, the harassment of people who were “light in their loafers,” or “lived in San Francisco,” or had “long-time roommates.” I wondered, as a youth who recognized my own difference, where I fit into society and particularly how, or if, I could fit into the church. The Lutheran words of grace fell on deaf ears and the church created a strong works righteous theology in a young teenager who believed that if he could be better than everyone else then, and only then, God would love and accept him. Arriving at St. Olaf College, a college of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, I was met by God’s radical promise of grace and found myself crossing the Jordan into a new way of being—called by God to wholeness as a person.

The words of professors and friends at St. Olaf and co-workers at Luther Crest Bible Camp echoed the words of former pastors and a grandfather who had encouraged me to follow the call to serve as a pastor. While trying to run away from this call to serve as a pastor in the Lutheran church, I found God unwilling to give up on me. This cast me into yet another wilderness.

Having come to a place of wholeness and promise as child of God, I found myself now wrestling with a church trying to make its way through its own wilderness of sexuality and gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons serving as clergy. It has been a journey for me…it has been a longer journey for many others…and certainly it has been a long and challenging journey for this community we call the Church.

Yet, now, as I stand as a gay man ordained to serve as a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, I am well aware of the Promised Land to which we are called. We stand at the banks of the river preparing to cross over. We will carry with us our lived experience, the memory and the promise of those who have gone before us, the profound sense of grace that God instills in us as a church, and most importantly we will look to the God who calls and challenges us to live into promise.

“…the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying… ‘Now proceed to cross the Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them’… ‘As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous.’”

Rev. Brad Froslee received his MDiv. from Harvard University and his BA from St. Olaf College. He has been active in work with youth and youth education with program such as 4-H and his church youth group. Brad serves as pastor of St. Luke Presbyterian Church in Minnetonka, MN. Pr. Brad is also the Camp Director at the Naming Project. The Naming Project Camp and The Naming Project Drop-in Center provide safe, welcoming, and nurturing environments for g/l/b/t and allied youth. You can learn more about the Naming Project by visiting:

Monday, August 13, 2007

Wish Upon a Star

The Discovery Channel reminds us that a free sky show is happening. Unforutnately in Minnesota it was cloudy and rainy until last night. I was sleeping soundly and didn't know to look out. I will tonight. We just got our telescope working again so the show should be even better!

Perseid Meteors to Light Skies Sunday
Irene Klotz, Discovery News

Aug. 10, 2007 — If you like to wish upon a falling star, head outside this weekend before dawn and you should be able to increase your luck substantially.

Earth will be plowing through a region of space liberally sprinkled with dust from a comet.

The planet passes through this stretch every year at this time, but with only a slim new moon in the sky, it will be darker than usual and better suited for viewing the Perseid meteor shower.

"It's going to be a great show," said Bill Cooke, who keeps an eye out for meteoroids and comets from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

At the peak of the storm, which occurs at 2 a.m. EDT on Monday, Cooke estimates as many as one to two meteoroids per minutes. But the show should begin around 9 p.m. on Sunday when the constellation Perseus rises in the northeast and continue until first light on Monday.

We can thank Comet Swift-Tuttle for leaving behind the debris that causes the showers, but we'll have to do it in absentia. The comet, which is the largest object known that makes repeated passes by Earth, hasn't been around since 1992.

Nevertheless, we are reminded of its presence every year when Earth passes by its celestial footsteps, which seem to emanate from the constellation Perseus, which is why the storm is known as the Perseids.

As particles from the comet's tail enter Earth's atmosphere, the air in front of them becomes compressed and hot. Scientists estimate temperatures can climb as high as 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit due to the particles' intense speed — about 132,000 mph. The heat vaporizes the particles, creating streaks of light we call shooting stars.

For best viewing, try to find a dark spot, away from city lights and look east. For added bonus, Mars will be out, in full red bloom, in the constellation Taurus, just below Perseus.

God's Hand

The school bus filled with children that did not crash into the river when the I35 bridge collapsed was lifted from the crash site yesterday. It's removal prompted this response from a bystander:
"God was taking care of them because that bus could have gone right over the side," said Barb Tangen of Fridley as she stared Sunday at what was left of the bridge. "It was so close to where that semi ended up. I know God's hand when I see it."
With 52 children and 9 adults on board, it is certainly fortunate that the bus didn't end up in the river. A scope of the tragedy would have been vastly magnified. As it is, it is amazing that more people didn't perish.

Still, nine are dead including a pregnant mother and her child and a 20 year old man with Downs Syndrome. His mother is among the 4 still missing and presumed drowned. Where, I wonder, was God's hand in their deaths. Did God pick some to spare and some to go? How much was God involved in this tragedy? Did he know it was coming and allow it to happen? Did he plan it out beforehand? Did he have his eye off the ball; afterall there are monumental tragedies unfolding in Iraq and Darfur.

There are many folks who believe that God is in control of all of this. Most do not blame God for what goes wrong; they reason that God has given us free will and we have chosen Sin (not little sins but the big original kind) and the world is the way it is - profoundly messed up - because of that. But God can and occasionally does intervene to save or punish. And God, they believe, will eventually "return" for a final apocalyptic drama.

I think that if God could intervene to save a pregnant mother and her child from drowning, but chooses not to, then God is a mean, capricious God. I simply don't believe that there is a God who is up there or out there and in control of everything. Many people, I know find a belief in this kind of God comforting, but it has never spoken to either my heart or my mind.

God is the name we give to the love that is never exhausted by the imperfect expressions of it we know in our lives; God is the name we give to the source of our passion for peace and justice that will not let us rest as long as one person is dying of hunger or war or any other form of human-caused suffering. God is the name we give for the place pregnant mothers and children who died too soon (and everyone else too) go to in our hearts as we grieve for their loss, celebrate their lives, and honor them by living our lives in a worthy way.

It's not what we believe about a divine being but the way we live our lives that makes our faith real. We are God's hands.

Photo by Jerry Holt , Star Tribune

Cut and Run

Ding dong, Rove is gone!

He stated his rationale for leaving in an article that appears in today's Star and Tribune:

He said he decided to leave after White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten told senior aides that if they stayed past Labor Day they would be obliged to remain through the end of the president's term in January 2009.

"I just think it's time," Rove said in an interview at this home on Saturday. He first floated the idea of leaving to Bush a year ago, the newspaper said, and friends confirmed he'd been talking about it even earlier. However, he said he didn't want to depart right after the Democrats regained control of Congress and then got drawn into policy battles over the Iraq war and immigration.

It's very unfortunate for many people he didn't leave in August '03. I suspect many lives would have been saved.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Lutherans Vote to Allow Gay Clergy in Same-Gender Relationships

Clergy members who are in homosexual relationships will be able to serve as pastors, the largest U.S. Lutheran body said Saturday.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America passed a resolution at its annual assembly urging bishops to refrain from disciplining pastors who are in “faithful committed same-gender relationships.”

The resolution passed by a vote of 538-431.

Another step forward in God's Kin-dom.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Pravda Lives

Jack Beatty in The Atlantic:

Over the first 90 days of 2007, Fox devoted 15% of its daytime "newshole" to Iraq and 10% to Anna Nicole Smith compared to CNN’s 25 and 4% and MSNBC’s 31 and 6%. To the firing of the U.S. Attorneys, a hot story in March, Fox gave 2% of its air time, CNN 4%, and MSNBC 8%, four times the Fox total. On talk radio the PEJ report found that while "conservative hosts" gave 3% of their air-time to the firings, "liberal hosts" gave 7% of theirs to "Gonzogate." (To be sure, as a study by the Center for American Progress recently documented, 9 out of 10 talk shows are conservative.) Thus, whether on Fox or on Rush & Co., the quantity of bad news about Bush is restricted and, when acknowledged, spun in a pro-Bush way.

The Fox glow is something new in the American media world, comparable to a party-run medium like Pravda. Right to the end, Pravda and its ilk kept faith alive in the Communist party regime, feeding lies to the hungry believers, readers may recall a massive survey out of the University of Maryland revealing that viewers fed mainly on Fox News were far likelier than CNN or CBS viewers to believe myths about the Iraq War—for example, that the still-missing weapons of mass destruction had been found and that Saddam was behind 9/11. That myth has persevered: 40 percent of Americans still believe it, which testifies to the pernicious power of the "news" carried by Fox and other party organs. Like Pravda for Communists, Fox News performs cognitive therapy for conservatives, sustaining a presidency that, now more than ever, is "faith-based."

Evangelicals Moral Agenda Directed Inward

So says sociologist Bradford Wilcox of the University of Virginia in a Wall Street Journal piece:

But does their "pro-family" agenda really stem from evangelicals' desire to change the behavior of others? There are at least three reasons that evangelicals are concerned about issues like abortion, sexual promiscuity and marriage. First, most obviously, evangelicals subscribe to a traditional form of the Christian faith that views the Bible as a literal and authoritative guide to family life.

Second, in the past 40 years, evangelicals have come to see their pro-family worldview as a countercultural badge of honor. It signals both to themselves and to the broader society that they have not conformed to the ways of the world. Thus, paradoxically, attacks by the likes of Howard Dean, Frank Rich and Bill Maher on "intolerant" and "bigoted" evangelicals only deepen their commitment. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Seminary, put it this way in an op-ed in the New York Times: "To the cultured critics of religion, we are the cantankerous holdouts against the inevitable. But so far as the Southern Baptist Convention is concerned, the future is in God's hands. If faithfulness requires the slings and arrows of outraged opponents, so be it."

Third, and perhaps most surprisingly, evangelicals are concerned about the state of the family in their own homes, neighborhoods and communities. And for good reason. Studies indicate, for instance, that teen sex and divorce are as common among evangelicals as they are among other Americans. Indeed, divorce is especially high in Bible Belt states such as Kentucky, Mississippi and Arkansas. Thus evangelical efforts to advance a pro-family agenda in the public square must be understood, at least in part, as a defensive effort to get their own house in order.

So what gives? Are evangelicals hypocrites, intent on imposing biblical values on others that they themselves cannot live up to? Media reports to the contrary, and despite the bad example of the occasional evangelical leader (e.g., Ted Haggard), churchgoing evangelicals actually do better than most Americans in living up to their distinctive worldview.

My recent research for the Russell Sage Foundation indicates that evangelicals who attend religious services weekly, when compared with average Americans, are less likely to cohabit as young adults (1% vs. 10% of other young adults), to bear a child outside of wedlock (12% vs. 33% of other moms) and to divorce (7% vs. 9% of other married adults divorced from 1988 to 1993). So churchgoing evangelicals, who are also the ones most likely to be involved in political and pastoral efforts to strengthen the family, are actually achieving some success in their efforts to focus on the family.

But their nominal brethren--that is, evangelicals who attend church rarely or never--are a different story. According to my research, nominal evangelicals have sex before other teens, cohabit and have children outside of wedlock at rates that are no different than the population at large, and are much more likely to divorce than average Americans. One reason that nominal evangelicals have been particularly vulnerable to the family revolution of the past 40 years is that they are much more likely to be poor and uneducated than other Americans.

But even after controlling for class, I find that nominal evangelicals do worse than other Americans. Why? I suspect that many nominal evangelicals are products of a Scotch-Irish "redneck" culture, still found in parts of Appalachia and the South, that Thomas Sowell and the late Southern historian Grady McWhiney argue has historically been marked by higher levels of promiscuity, violence and impulsive behavior. This cultural inheritance, and not their Protestantism, probably helps to account for the poor family performance of nominal evangelicals.

So the next time one hears about evangelicals trying to impose their family values on the rest of us, remember that they are probably more concerned about the families of their nominally Protestant brothers, cousins, neighbors and friends in the Bible Belt than they are about folks in Massachusetts.
One wonders how the church-going evangelicals compare with church-going liberals. Hat tip to the BRF Journal.

Human Rights Campaign's Presidential Forum

Last night the Human Rights Campaign held a forum (an historic first) of the Presidential Candidates. Here's what one of the candidates had to say. You can click on links to hear statements from them all.

Let the Spirit Blow through the Windy City Today

The Goodsoil website for the Luthern's Concerned says that today is probably the day that Lutherans will vote whether or not to end the discrimination against LGBT clergy in that denomination.

The Goodsoil website has a link to the daily newsletter of the gathering. The newsletter notes that hits to the website for the biannual conference are over 12,000--many more than in the past! (Additionally people are visiting the streaming video and audio links to the conference as well.

Many Christians (and non Christians) are following what is happening in this populous Protestant Christian denomination on this issue!

Here's the Goodsoil website for you because there are other good items of interest and links to follow there even though the sight still seems a bit "under construction":

God's Angry With US

Rep. Bill Sali thinks God isn't very happy for America for allowing a Hindu to offer the opening prayer in the Senate:

Last month, the U.S. Senate was opened for the first time ever with a Hindu prayer. Although the event generated little outrage on Capitol Hill, Representative Bill Sali (R-Idaho) is one member of Congress who believes the prayer should have never been allowed.

"We have not only a Hindu prayer being offered in the Senate, we have a Muslim member of the House of Representatives now, Keith Ellison from Minnesota. Those are changes -- and they are not what was envisioned by the Founding Fathers," asserts Sali.

Sali says America was built on Christian principles that were derived from scripture. He also says the only way the United States has been allowed to exist in a world that is so hostile to Christian principles is through "the protective hand of God."

"You know, the Lord can cause the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike," says the Idaho Republican.

According to Congressman Sali, the only way the U.S. can continue to survive is under that protective hand of God. He states when a Hindu prayer is offered, "that's a different god" and that it "creates problems for the longevity of this country."

Yes, I'll bet that God is much more unhappy with us about a Hindu prayer in Congress than She is about us starting a war based on lies that has caused the death of tens of thousands of Her children.

Rep. Sali's thinking is only slightly more offensive than the latest ranting of Fred Phelps.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

They Like Jesus, but not the Church

I was reading the VOS Digest and noticed a post with a positive review of a new book about the emerging church. Sounds interesting!

From Doris Dunham of Bakersfield CA,

The book I just finished reading for a TRIM unit I am doing is They LikeJesus But Not the Church by Dan Kimball. This is probably the most interestingand most important book that I've read in all of my TRIM studies other than the Bible itself. It is an honest critique of the organized church told by a pastor who spends most of his time talking with young adults who are not in the church.The book is not difficult to read or in theological terminology. It is awake-up call for church leaders. It does not tell us to throw away what we've got, but challenges us to look at some possibilities for widening our view of how we do church. It is clearly about the emerging church movement and as such, the Church of the Brethren has a head start because of our emphasis onservice to others. Kimball listens to young adults talk about what they think. He talks with them. He builds relationships with them. Some of them eventually do come to his church. His companion book, I Like Jesus, But Not the Church isscheduled to be out in February 2008.I can strongly recommend the book for anyone who wants the church to be thebest it can be and who is interested in how we can be more sensitive to what today's young adults are looking for in a church.

News from the ELCA Conference in Chicago

Tue Aug 7, 2007 6:53 pm (PST)
Contact: Phil Soucy 703-980-2038

Eighty-two LGBT Lutheran ministers introduce themselves to the ELCA

Eighty-two lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Lutheran ministers have chosen to introduce themselves to their denomination and speak out against the policy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) that prohibits them from entering into lifelong, loving family relationships. On Tuesday morning, these LGBT ministers placed their names in a devotional booklet that was offered as a gift to the voting members at the 2007 biennial Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA, meeting in Chicago. Though the ELCA says it welcomes LGBT persons into the life of the church, LGBT ministers are required to remain celibate, without a life partner, for the rest of their lives. Pastor Bradley Schmeling, who was removed from the ELCA clergy roster on July 2 because of his covenanted relationship with Pastor Darin Easler, stated: "The ELCA policy runs counter to the position of Martin Luther himself who opposed forced celibacy on any individual, especially pastors. Luther believed that celibacy was a gift of God given only to a few and that imposed celibacy produced only unnecessary scandal and hardship." Most of the 82 pastors have been open with their congregations about who they love for many years. Some are not partnered, but have been clear about their orientation with those in their ministry settings. Others have been removed from the roster of the ELCA since its churchwide assembly in Orlando in 2005. Some are rostered by the Extraordinary Candidacy Project which vets LGBT candidates for ministry who are unwilling to take the required vow of celibacy. Many of the ECP pastors serve congregations and in specialized ministries of the ELCA. Pastor Megan Rohrer, an ECP pastor called by four Lutheran congregations to minister to the homeless in San Francisco, said, "ECP pastors faithfully serve without ELCA official roster privileges, which often means less pay, loss of pension and insurance benefits. Some ECP pastors even need to work more than one job in addition to their work in congregations. All people deserve pastors, whether they can afford them or not, but the cost often comes at the expense of the pastors and pastoral leaders that have the courage to be open about who God has called them to be." Emily Eastwood, Executive Director, Lutherans Concerned / North America, and leader of the Goodsoil coalition seeking the elimination of the policy that bans LGBT pastors who have or wish to have a family, said, "The courage of these 82 ministers is amazing. They are all well aware of the risks they take in introducing themselves and their families to the wider church. For those who are rostered leaders in the ELCA, they risk discipline from their bishops, discipline which may include formal ecclesiastical charges, a trial and ultimate removal." LGBT pastors have been introducing themselves and their families to the ELCA since its inception in 1987. With the continued forced resignation, discipline and removal of LGBT ministers in the ELCA, for these pastors, silence is not an option. Pastor Barbara Lundblad, gifted preacher and seminary professor said, "There comes a time when silence is no longer faithful. Because of my silence and the protection of many people, I've been invited to preach and teach across this church. I will be forever grateful for those opportunities. Yet, I know there are many who have never been invited, talented pastors whose voices we have lost, whose gifts have been squandered because they refused to be silent." Later this week the ELCA Churchwide Assembly will take up the issue of eliminating the celibacy requirement for LGBT ministers, thus placing them under the single set of rules common to the rest of the ministers. About:Goodsoil is working for full inclusion of LGBT Lutherans in the life of their church and is comprised of Lutherans Concerned / North America, The Network for Full Inclusion, Wingspan Ministry, and the Extraordinary Candidacy Project.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Environmental Policy Initiatives of Presidental Candidates

I'm enjoying reading this series in the environmental online magazine, The Daily Grist. The Grist is posting interviews with each of the Presidential candidates asking them about their stance on issues concerning the environment.

Here's the link for you to enjoy too...

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Lutherans Meeting in Chicago

This week the Lutherans will be meeting in Chicago and there will be an attempt to lift the discriminatory ban on gay and lesbian individuals serving as ordained clergy. Many people are going to be standing up and outing themselves in a public way this week to try to create change and this will put their positions in the church at risk in a variety of ways.

The More Light Presbyterians are asking for prayers to support these individuals and that hearts and minds in this denomination be moved. I know that many Episcopalians stand with them as well as Methodists, Brethren, etc...

It is both a painful and exciting time to be creating change in the life of the Church. I stand it solidarity with those who put themselves on the line everyday to fulfill their call to ministry. Peace be with you!


More Light Presbyterians & friends --

More Light Presbyterians call for prayer & support for friends and allies in Lutherans Concerned/North America, and our sister denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

This is a call for prayer and support for our Lutheran sisters and brothers, their families and allies in the coming days as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America meets in Chicago for its biennial Churchwide Assembly August 6 - 11.

Nearly a third of all synods, similar to our presbyteries, have called for the lifting of the ban on same-sex clergy in committed relationships from serving the Church. Of this ban and the history of discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender identity in the Church, Chicago's presiding Bishop Paul Landahl says: "For me, those who are in committed relationships, if they are doing good ministry, I say 'God bless them.' We are not here to fight. Christ was a welcoming presence in the world in his time. It's a Gospel issue. I think the church is dead wrong on it."

Our Presbyterian Church (USA) can well be informed and inspired by the moral and spiritual courage -- and witness of this call for change and the end to discrimination against LGBT pastors in the ELCA, a denomination in which we share communion.

Lutherans Concerned/North America, a network similar to More Light Presbyterians, is working in coalition with other advocacy and ministry groups within the Goodsoil coalition. For more on this coalition and its work in Chicago -

We ask you to pray for all those working for justice and full participation of LGBT persons and their families in the ELCA.

More Light Presbyterians stand in prayer, solidarity and witness with our sisters and brothers of Lutherans Concerned/North America and the Goodsoil advocacy coalition. We encourage you to pray for our Lutheran sisters and brothers in Christ to be open to the call of God's Spirit. We ask you to pray for all those working for justice and full participation of LGBT persons and their families in the ELCA.

In addition to praying and living into hope with our Lutheran sisters and brothers, we ask you to send a note of support and encouragement to Emily Eastwood, Executive Director, LCNA and the Goodsoil advocacy coalition in care of Jerry Vagts, RIC Grassroots Organizer, RIC Grassroots Coordinator at

What happens this next week and beyond it for Lutherans has impact upon the rest of the body of Christ and the face of Christianity to the world. It is the hope and prayer of More Light Presbyterians that the wildly-inclusive love of God in Jesus Christ and a no-boundaries Gospel be at the center of these conversations and decisions at this upcoming ECLA Churchwide Assembly.

Every step forward makes a profound difference. Twenty, even ten years ago, it is likely that few Lutherans could have imagined this moment, and yet here we are. The same could be said of Presbyterians, Methodists or Episcopalians.

The tide has turned. A second-class status in God's realm is not acceptable for any of God's own children. Discrimination inside the church, or beyond it is not acceptable for any of God's own children, or the Gospel of Jesus Christ that calls all of us to a higher way.

As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "...the arc of history is long and it bends toward justice." May grace, justice and love prevail this week in Chicago.

with hope and grace,

PS - please do pray and send a note to Emily & Jerry at

Michael J. Adee, M.Div., Ph.D., National Field Organizer
More Light Presbyterians, 369 Montezuma Avenue # 447, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501 USA (505) 820-7082,,

It's Better Living in the Jungle

Milos Forman is the Oscar-winning director of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Amadeus. He has a new movie out about the Spanish painter Goya, Goya's Ghosts. Colin Covert profiles and interviews Forman in the Star Tribune:
He was born in 1932 and lost his Jewish father and Protestant mother to Adolf Hitler's concentration camps. Raised by relatives, he graduated from film school in 1957, making light comedies designed to escape the attention of the Communist state film authority's censors, although they sometimes flirted with antiauthoritarian satire.

When Czech reformers pushing for democratization were crushed by a Soviet-led invasion in 1968, Forman fled to the United States and adjusted quickly to Hollywood's way of doing things, winning Academy Awards for his direction of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1975) and "Amadeus" (1984). The battle of individuals against powerful, Kafkaesque institutions is one of Forman's enduring themes, and one he knows firsthand as a filmmaker.

"In Communist society life is like being in a zoo," Forman said. "You are in a cage, literally, with barbed wires and borders. You can't go where you want. But you just have to show yourself; you don't have to work very hard. They feed you and you can't choose the food, but you won't starve. You dream about the beauty and freedom of the jungle."

Moving to the United States, he found "suddenly the bars are broken and you're in the jungle. It's beautiful but dangerous. You're free to go where you like, but you could tumble into a ravine, be bitten by a snake or mauled by a tiger. You thrill to your freedom, but you miss the safety of the zoo."

...Forman said he has observed two kinds of censorship. "In Communist society there was no commercial pressure whatsoever. You didn't have to worry about how much money you spent, but there was very strong ideological constraint, concern that you wouldn't say anything that would upset the political status quo.

"In Hollywood it is exactly the other way," he said. "There is no ideological pressure whatsoever, but tremendous commercial pressure to make money for the people who invested in the film and sell tickets to audiences.

"I prefer to work under commercial pressure rather than ideological pressure. I would rather work under the mercy of an audience of all kinds of people than under the mercy of some idiot in an office worrying about whether what I have created will upset his superiors."

Saturday, August 04, 2007

District Conference

Just back from District Conference in Waterloo, IA. It was probably the most dismal conference I have ever attended. On Friday night there was an insight on biblical authority; it actually was the highlight of the conference. Craig Alan Myers of the Brethren Revival Fellowship and Rick Gardner from Bethany Theological Seminary (COB seminary) answered a series of scripted questions about the COB paper on biblical inspiration. They did a good job highlighting the main points of the paper and of outlining their differences on biblical interpretation. The key insight came when they talked about how they approach interpretation. Craig talked about Jesus creating clear boundaries of who is in and out and what is acceptable and not, in essence giving priority to the Gospel of John's understanding of Jesus. Rick talked about the way Jesus had reverence for his scriptures, the Hebrew scriptures, but then saying at numerous points "you have heard that it was said" (in the Hebrew scriptures) but I say to you... This position comes from giving greater weight to the synoptic gospels. This, Rick's position, is a key hermeneutical (the method we bring to interpretation) principle of progressive scholarship. We do what Jesus did. We have reverence for the scripture as we have it, but where we have new insight that wasn't available then we say that God is still speaking and we know some things better today than it was possible for those living in biblical times to know. I thought both Craig and Rick did a good job.

It was all down hill from there. My overriding impression of sitting among the district representatives from various churches is of being in the midst of a dying church. Very few young people were present; heck, very few people my age were present. They, or at least some of them, are worrying themselves to death about what is happening up here in the twin cities while their churches in Iowa are dying. It's like Nero fiddling while Rome burns.

The most controversial action item addressed by the conference had to do with a recommendation by the district board that we as a district reaffirm our support for the position papers adopted by the denomination's annual conference with an added piece that said that the district recognized the fact that we have individuals and congregations who disagree with elements of these positions papers and it is not the intent of the district to try to censure or punish these congregations (that would be us) because of these differences.

The district board has spent more than a year wrestling with the unhappiness of several congregations about us and Common Spirit, the group meeting in Minneapolis. The board itself has been deeply divided and this action item was their way of addressing the concerns of these congregations as well as recognizing the fact that we have diversity in our district and strong support from other individuals and congregations for us.

Naturally the board's response did not satisfy the conservatives. They want boundaries; they want an end to talking and action; they want censure or punishment of those who don't agree with them.

So a motion came from the floor to affirm the first part of the action item that reaffirms our district's support of denominational position papers, but to drop the second part that recognizes our differences in the district. This motion passed with fairly strong support. And the conference was over.

My own sense in the district is that there is not strong support for the views of the conservative faction. So why did the amended motion pass? In part because it was the last item on the agenda and the delegates were tired and worn out from the emotional weight of the conference. We had just finished a lengthy and painful discussion about the Cando congregation's decision to withdraw from the denomination. I for one, had little interest in making a counter argument; I just wanted to go home. In part I also think that the stakes were not very high in simply affirming the denominational position papers. (The papers themselves acknowledge the fact that we are divided over key issues and call for conversation and understanding. There was no action being taken to put the hammer down on anyone.)

What does it all mean? Well, for us at Open Circle it doesn't mean very much. We will continue doing what we have been doing - being a thriving, growing liberal Christian church engaged in active mission in our community. For the district, I suspect it means a continuation of struggle over these issues and more numerical death in most district churches. More than likely the conservative faction will be back soon trying to get the district board to take action against us.

Many of these conservative churches have been withholding money from the district because of their unhappiness with the actions of the board. It will be interesting to see if in light of this "win" they resume their financial support. Or will they continue to hold the district ransom until they get their way?

Rhonda Pittman Gingrich spoke from the floor saying that she has been proud of the way the Northern Plains District has attempted to create a dialogue around the issues that divide us. We have had a special meeting to talk about homosexuality, moderated by denominational leadership; we invited Craig Alan and Rick into the district to help us talk about biblical inspiration. We have a meeting coming up to talk about the lordship of Jesus and our differences in understanding over this issue. Rhonda is right; the district board is to be commended for their efforts to bring us together to talk about our differences. This is something that should have been happening all across the denomination.

It appears to me after this conference that the conservatives in our district are not interesting in talking. They are sure that they have the truth and they want to attempt to force the district to support their position. Or else they will take their marbles and go home.

Great Movie Coming in November

For the first time just now I watched the trailers and read the synopsis of this upcoming movie directed by Robert Redford starring Meryl Streep and Tom Cruise, and Redford. It is titled Lions to Lambs and it is about two U.S. college students who enlist to fight in Afganistan and what happens to them/around them. It is scheduled for release on Nov. 9th, 2007--the first Friday of "full out" presidential election campaigning for Nov. 2008. Redford is one class act. I can't wait to see this!

Friday, August 03, 2007

I'm a Better Catholic; No I Am

I have been finding the CBN blog entertaining reading lately. It seems Republican Presidential candidates Mick Huckabee and Sam Brownback are feuding over who is a more worthy recipient of the evangelical vote:

Mike Huckabee's campaign manager is absolutely blasting Sam Brownback and his "Christian character." Read more here about this argument, but basically this centers around the fact that a Huckabee supporter sent an e-mail to a bunch of Iowa Evangelicals asking them to reconsider supporting Brownback because he's Catholic. Huckabee issued a statement afterwards but the Brownback camp believed it didn't go far enough and wanted him to actually apologize.

Well, now Huckabee's campaign manager Chip Saltsman decided to lower the boom on Brownback.

Read it below:

"It's time for Sam Brownback to stop whining and start showing some of the Christian character he seems to always find lacking in others. He has attacked Governor Huckabee for something that a Huckabee supporter said in an email sent to two individuals. The person who originated the email has apologized and is not a member of the Huckabee staff. For Brownback to claim that the Governor "owes him an apology" is nonsense and indicates that if Brownback is going to fall to pieces every time a supporter of the Governor says something he doesn't like, he clearly isn't tough enough to be President. The Governor strongly disavowed the statement by the supporter, but that wasn't enough for Brownback. He continued to cry about it. The irony is that unlike Senator Brownback, I have been a Catholic my entire life, as have several of the senior staff members in the Huckabee campaign. Governor Huckabee enjoys strong support from Catholics and for good cause. If Senator Brownback wants to start apologizing for inappropriate things said, perhaps he could pull the "beam out of his own eye before taking the speck out of someone else's" by apologizing for the website 'Baptists for Brownback' that states that Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Fred Thompson and others are 'Hell bound.'

"We don't condone or support attacks on people for their faith--whether it comes from our supporters or from his. Senator Brownback surely has better things to do than police the private emails of a single supporter who said things for which he later apologized and which should have been sufficient for most Christians to accept. As a lifelong Catholic, I was taught that when a person apologized, we were to forgive him and go forward, not shop for other apologies from people not even involved in the original sin. It's time for these silly accusations to stop and for all of us to focus on leading the country and solving problems that the American people care about."

But aren't we all involved in "the original sin?" Reading these posts answers that question.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Why You Can't Fail My Daughter

The NYTimes tells the story of Austin Lampros, a New York City teacher at the High School of Arts and Technology in Manhattan. Lantos failed a student after she had missed dozens of class sessions and failed to turn in numerous homework assignments. She did not even shown up to take the final exam. She did, however, attend the senior prom. Lantos's failing grade would have kept her from graduating - again. But the principal intervened, allowing her to take the final exam. She scored a 66 which still gave her a failing grade for the class. No matter, the principal passed her.

It is not a proud moment for public schools or for a system where administrators feel pressure to show student improvement or face the loss of funding. But it also not a proud moment for the parents of the girl:
From Michigan, Mr. Lampros recalled one comment that Mrs. Fernandez (parent) made during their meeting about why it was important for Indira (daughter) to graduate. She couldn’t afford to pay for her to attend another senior prom in another senior year.

Politics of Bridge Collapse

At the Star Tribune Nick Coleman is already weighing in:

For half a dozen years, the motto of state government and particularly that of Gov. Tim Pawlenty has been No New Taxes. It's been popular with a lot of voters and it has mostly prevailed. So much so that Pawlenty vetoed a 5-cent gas tax increase - the first in 20 years - last spring and millions were lost that might have gone to road repair. And yes, it would have fallen even if the gas tax had gone through, because we are years behind a dangerous curve when it comes to the replacement of infrastructure that everyone but wingnuts in coonskin caps agree is one of the basic duties of government.

I'm not just pointing fingers at Pawlenty. The outrage here is not partisan. It is general.

Both political parties have tried to govern on the cheap, and both have dithered and dallied and spent public wealth on stadiums while scrimping on the basics.

I'll be surprised if this bridge collapse doesn't fundamentally change the dynamics of the state debate on transportation funding. The gas tax increase had bipartisan support from the legislature but Republicans were not willing to help over-ride Pawlenty's veto. But in the aftermath of this disaster and after the hammering they took in the last election, I can't imagine them standing in the way of a substantial increase in transportation funding, whatever the Governor says.

CHIPS Measure Passes House

From the NYTimes:
Over angry Republican objections, the House on Wednesday passed a sweeping expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, financed with increases in tobacco taxes and cuts in subsidies to private Medicare insurance plans for older Americans.

The bill embodies the Democrats’ vision for health care, taking a step toward the goal of universal coverage while reversing what they see as Republican efforts to “privatize Medicare.”

By a vote of 225 to 204, the bill passed, with support from 220 Democrats and 5 Republicans. Ten Democrats joined 194 Republicans in voting against it. The bill would provide coverage for more than four million uninsured children in low-income families, prevent cuts in doctors’ Medicare payments scheduled for Jan. 1 and raise the federal cigarette tax 45 cents a pack, to 84 cents.

It would also increase assistance to low-income Medicare recipients and eliminate co-payments for most preventive care provided to Medicare recipients.

Our healthcare system is incredibly expensive and bloated with a dizzying maze of inefficient insurance company bureaucracy. While the bill focuses on expanded coverage for children - and it is a national disgrace that we have children uninsured - it also takes a whack at the new supplemental Medicare insurance plan which is confusing to seniors but lining the pockets of insurance companies. Naturally, the insurance companies are up in arms and are running ads on CNN and elsewhere non-stop featuring "average" seniors who are warning that Congress is threatening to cut their benefits. But this is the reality:

More than eight million of the 43 million Medicare beneficiaries are in plans offered by companies like Humana and United Health. Since December 2005, enrollment in private plans has shot up 40 percent.

On average, the Congressional Budget Office says, Medicare pays the private plans 12 percent more than it would cost to cover the same people under the traditional Medicare program. The House bill would eliminate the differential, saving $50 billion over the next five years and $157 billion from 2008 to 2017.

If they can't compete with what it would cost to run the program as part of Medicare then they shouldn't be able to offer coverage. It is nothing but corporate welfare for the rich.

I35 Bridge Collapse

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all who were injured or lost loved ones. It was an unbelievable event.

Image courtesy of Pioneer Press. Click on it to enlarge.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Last Jews in Baghdad

From Time Magazine online:

Baghdad was once one of the great cradles of Jewish culture and wisdom, but now, according to the Christian priest who has been looking after them, there are only eight Jews left in the Iraqi capital, and their situation is "more than desperate." The Rev. Canon Andrew White, the Anglican chaplain to Iraq, says that the small group is in considerable danger. However, the community has been unable to agree to emigrate as a whole. Some of its members, without identifying themselves as Jews, have attempted to leave individually, but have been turned down. White says that only one of the Jews, a woman, still regularly goes to a Baghdad synagogue, though he will give no details.

White provides the group with food and money once a month, some of which they give to local Muslims, he says. "Not because they are forced to," he says, "but because they care about them. These are wonderful people." He notes that the Iraqi Jews constituted one of the world's oldest Jewish communities, and that the country contains numerous important Jewish sites, such as the graves of the prophets Ezra and Ezekiel. The flourishing Jewish community in Baghdad also produced one version of Judaism's second-holiest book, the Talmud, in about 550 A.D...

Baptists for Brownback

Andrew Sullivan wonders if this site, Baptists for Brownback, is for real. After reading the legal statement I think it must be parody, but it has certainly made me laugh this morning. There is this:
The Sissification of Seattle July 28th, 2007

Appalling news from the West Coast: The latest strain of the disease, uber-liberalism, has crept its way up the California coast and into Seattle, Washington. Men’s skirts, it would seem, is what the fashionable-fairies from San Francisco to Seattle are wearing this season. They are no longer content to swish and prance about in shorty-shorts or repulsively tight slacks anymore, so they have began wearing women’s clothing.

The kilt, long associated with those ghastly Scots, has seen a drastic increase in popularity among the jet-setting homosexual crowd. One manufacturer of this perfectly obscene item, Utilikilts in Seattle, was recently interviewed and subsequently featured prominently on the front page of Yahoo News. (See links below)

Friends, we are living in a world where nothing is sacred and very little is left to the imagination. The very last thing we need in this country is for homosexuals to be permitted, by law mind you, to wear a skirt. It is understood, that while the sodomite would unnaturally embrace the feminine attributes of a man-skirt or kilt, the main purpose is that it grants them easy and quick access for fornicating...

And this:
The Curse of Ham: Why Barack Hussein Oboma Will Never Be President

It is written in Rev 20:8-Satan shall go out to deceive all the nations which are in the four quarters of the Earth, Gog,and Magog to gather them together to battle: The number of whom is countless and of the sand of the sea or shores of the sea. As descendant of Canaan, Liberal Democrat, Barack Obama Hussein is indeed a liar for that there is no disputing. He has and will continue to with his lies to God’s children that abortion, blatant homosexuality, fornication, and socialism is fun and good. This does not however make him the great liar that God tells us is to be the Anti-Christ. It is Barack Hussein Obama’s curse of coloredness that will prevent him from ever being elected leader of a true Christian nation, one that is founded upon Christian principle by the chosen, fair-skinned people of God.

The nations and countries of Africa, Iraq, and Iran, and all people of dark skin carry the curse of Ham and will be subservient to the people who remain favorable to God. That is why there is so much trouble brewing in these lands; they carry the Canaan curse. The angel Radueriel told me this saying with a loud voice (the emphasis on a loud voice). This message needs to be shouted and proclaimed loudly. In doing so, some that have been deaf, that is their ears have been closed, will begin to hear. “Prophet Davis, go and tell your brothers and sisters that a descendant of Ham will never lead the America.”

And this:
People Who are Probably Going To Hell

Regardless of how reluctant we are sometimes, it is our duty as Chrisitians (Baptists) to pray for those we deem already damned to Hell. As easy as it is to dismiss these people as lost forever to eternal damnation, we must remember that in Christ, anything is possible no matter how remote the chance.

Given the enormity of sinners that we come across on a daily basis we simply cannot list them all. We whill, however, try and update this list as frequently as necessary.

WARNING: Before visiting any of the following links you are cautioned to say the following prayer.