Monday, September 30, 2013

Inclusion is not about Tolerance, it's about Repentance

The IRD recently published a blog post blasting current and former Candler theological students as being intolerant of the beliefs of Rev. Eddie Fox when it comes to LGBT inclusion and the very “practice” of homosexuality. 
One of my major problems with the author’s argument was the false assertion that those who seek to undo the centuries of harm done to the LGBT community are doing it just for the sake of being inclusive. “But isn’t it interesting?  Those who would change Christian sexual doctrine for the sake of tolerance are so openly intolerant?” I’m sorry to inform the IRD that for most progressive Christians, inclusion is not about tolerance - it is about repentance. Repenting of using the Scriptures as a weapon that leads LGBT teens to kill themselves and adults to live “in closets” and in shame; as a tool to separate God’s children from the grace, love, and mercy found within the Church; and failing to read and interpret Scripture in the Spirit through whom it was written. 
Yes, “through whom”, not “in which”; Scripture was written through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16), and that Spirit is dwelling in and speaking through people to this day – God has not ceased to speak to people through Scripture, reason, tradition, and personal experience. I hate to be the rain on this parade of injustice, but the Holy Spirit is busy breaking the chains of homophobia, in the PCUSA, the Episcopal Church, UCC, Disciples of Christ, ECLA, and even in the United Methodist Church. Though the Church is not a perfect reflection of Christ, through the Holy Spirit it is moving on to perfection or being made perfect in Christ (1 John 4:8).
Repenting is about turning away from wrong doing, and turning towards a life that reflects the life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. A life that is in-tune with the love of the Father as demonstrated in the sending of His beloved Son (John 3:16-17), in-tune with His justice in the saving of the oppressed slaves in Egypt (Exodus), and in-tune with His correction (Acts 10). “What God has made clean, you must not call profane (Acts 10:15b).” For too long we as the Church have been calling people profane, unclean, wicked, abominations, etc. – but in Christ all have been made clean. I’m sorry for those people in the Church who miss the old days when people wouldn’t call them out on calling people profane, when they have been made new in Christ – may God soften hearts, and correct them gently through the example of Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit. For too long fear of “the other” and of the unknown has been paralyzing the Church from serving those who most need the gospel, but the love of God is casting such fear out – God is calling us to stop living in fear and to start seeking the Spirit of power and love (2 Timothy 1:7). 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

My Statement of Faith

For my Doctrines & Themes class I had to make a statement of faith that was at the most only one page long. Since I am not very creative when it comes to writing out what I believe - I wrote it out in creedal form. 

I believe:
In the Holy Spirit the Revealer – one with the Creator and the Redeemer
The Holy Spirit is restoring the bond of love, trust, and communication betwixt the Creator and creation
The Revealer speaks through prophets/heretics, music, Scriptures, doctrines, and many other forms of communication

In Jesus the Redeemer – one with the Creator and the Restorer
Who has been revealed to all of humanity by way of the Revealer through Holy Scriptures, Reason, Personal Experiences, and Tradition
The very embodiment of the Creator’s vision for humanity

In God the Creator – the Mother/Father, the Beginning & the End
Through whom all was made and is being made new
Through whom all natural laws have been written
From whom all that is good comes
From whom all love flows

In Holy Scriptures both canonical and non-canonical
All inspired by God and used by God to serve God’s purposes in the world
In the sacredness of all of creation
In the explicit and implicit company of the saints
In the practices of Revelation, Resurrection, Recreation
In not fearing death

And in abundant life

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

LGBT Christians: Brush Off Your Feet

It is very ironic when I tell my LGBT friends to leave their non-affirming churches seeing as I am a Methodist and my denomination is not affirming of LGBT persons at all (albeit the denomination as a whole is at least in discussion about how to better engage the LGBT community & my local church is much more affirming). But I am getting sidetracked – It is my firm belief that LGBT persons should not stay in, tithe at, or participate in religious communities that are not affirming. 
       “Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the Day of Judgment than for that town.” – Matthew 10:11-15
In this passage Jesus is speaking to His apostles about carrying the good news into surrounding towns, and He is careful to tell them not to stay where they are not welcome. I know what you may be thinking how ironic that I’m using the Sodom & Gomorrah reference since the story of Sodom & Gomorrah is typically used against people who are LGBT; but it works really well when you consider Ezekiel 16:49: “This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” The needy in these church communities are the LGBT youth contemplating suicide because they don’t feel like God loves them but, at the same time the needy in these communities are also the oppressive ministers and congregants using poorly thought out theology to spiritually terrorize minority groups. 
Non-affirming churches are committing the same sins as Sodom by not welcoming, by taking tithes from LGBT Christians and using their funds to promote hatred, by focusing on adjectives like gender, sex, sexuality, class, race, etc and not focusing on the subjects – the people made in the divine image of Almighty God. 
Don’t get me wrong, Jesus at no point says not to share the good news of God’s grace with these unwelcoming cities, and likewise I would say that we should not give up hope on these non-affirming churches. If God can part the Red Sea and even make asses reprimand prophets then surely God is capable of softening hard-hearts, but I don’t believe that LGBT people should be the ones witnessing in these hostile environments, it should be heterosexuals. When God saw the children of Israel being oppressed in Egypt, he didn’t call one of the slaves to talk to Pharaoh; he called Moses, a former prince of Egypt. When God saw that the Israelite spies were in trouble in Jericho God used Rahab, a citizen of that town to save them; God is constantly calling the people in power and in comfortable positions to use their power for good rather than for evil. Justice not oppression. Love and not hate. Love does not excommunicate someone because of whom they are attracted to; love does not use seven verses to shut people out of the faith community overruling Jesus’ command to love one’s neighbor as oneself; love does not sit idly by as young LGBT kids leave the pews to be laid in coffins – love speaks truth to power, love embracing all of God’s children, love looks like Jesus.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Orientation at APTS

            Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary (APTS) is a very special seminary in that its orientation lasts for three days. 7:30AM – 5PM, Wednesday to Friday. It was the most tiring educational experience I’ve been through thus far – but it was also extremely refreshing.
            We started on Wednesday with Breakfast and introductions, and let me tell you the entering class of APTS is extremely diverse and very eclectic; I am in very good company here. We moved from breakfast into Morning Worship with Dr. Jennifer Lord. She lead us around Shelton Chapel showing us every nook and cranny, explaining to us what everything was for and expanding on the symbolism of bricks, arches, and stained windows. It was a beautiful prayer service. We went out and met every member of the faculty, got to spend quick session meeting all of the people that would be our instructors for the first semester. We were informed that we would no longer be using APA or MLA writing formats but Turabian. A lot happened on Wednesday. The day was rounded out with an ice cream social catered by Amy’s Ice Cream, it was delicious. The most important part of the social was socializing with current students; it was delightful getting to hear their stories, meet their kids, and most importantly playing with their dogs.
            Thursday was “camp” day. We set out at 8:05AM after breakfast for John Know Ranch. We spent the first 30 minutes or so in prayer, and learning about the camp. Around 9:45is we started our team building exercises which lasted until 12:30. It was so much fun getting to know more about y classmates, and learning how very different we all are, while at the same time seeing the massive similarities between us. The best part was working together to find shade trees to stand under. At lunch I led the group in a rousing rendition of the Johnny Appleseed prayer. After lunch Jackie Saxon discussed with us the spiritual difficulties of attending seminary. She relayed to us the importance of being involved in local churches, and not just using our chapel services as church. We had an hour of free time, which I used to sit in the air-conditioned building while others chose to go out in the heat and hike or swim (crazies). We returned to the seminary around 5ish.
            Friday was the final day and somehow that made it feel the longest. We had breakfast & a prayer service with President Ted Wardlaw. Then we Master in Divinity students were taken to a room to be handed a massive test. The test is issued by the Association of Theological Schools and it gives examples of issues arising in ministry and we had to reply to these issues by bubbling in the answers we most likely would choose. Luckily we have a while to finish it. After that test was put away, another was issued. A writing test – we were instructed to write about an influential person in our life or about an influential book (besides the Bible). It was actually pretty fun since it was such an open topic. We had community lunch, then an orientation to the library. Dr Suzie Parks gave a brief seminar on inclusive and expansive language, which was interesting. The most interesting demonstration came from the department of Ministers Facing Money – which revealed the amount of debt from education alone that our class was carrying (around $475,000 for 43 people). There were more talks, my mind left the building and then my body did too as we all left to go pay our bill for this semester.

            I found the whole experience to be very difficult, enriching, and completely inexplicable. I was made tired physically, while spiritually I felt refreshed, it was almost like those times when I went to summer camp with youth groups. Yet at the same time I learned a lot that weighed heavy on my mind. What if I am wasting my time here? What if I never get ordained? What if God was calling me elsewhere and this is just a three-year detour? Questions that will be answered soon enough I guess. But for now I’m trying to learn the Hebrew alphabet and vowel forms.