Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A New Day For The PCUSA

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) had (finally) approved changes in ordination standards! We are another step closer to genuine equality in the church! Praise God!!!

Maybe now we will begin to truly believe that God's gift of grace that is made known to us in our baptism is truly sufficient...because, baby...we were born this way...

Monday, May 9, 2011

On The Threshold Of Equality

In 2008, I served as a commissioner to the 218th General Assembly of the PC(USA). I worked with the Church Orders and Ministry Committee, which was the committee that considered amendments regarding G-6.0106b. That year, the General Assembly passed the amendment that became known as "Amendment 08-B". While it was being considered in committee, it was known as "Item 05-09". This proposed amendment would have changed the language of G-6.0106b in the PC(USA)'s Book of Order, moving us closer to real equality in the church.

I moved for its approval in committee (and voted for its approval on the floor of the Assembly), so I was really disappointed when it was not ratified by enough presbyteries to pass.

Many of us in the PC(USA) have been fighting to get the language of G-6.0106b either changed or removed from our Book of Order for years now -- ever since it was added to the Book of Order in the mid 1990s. Many of us wondered if/when that day would ever come.

Well...that day is finally here!!! Most are now saying that Tuesday, May 10, 2011, will be the day that the language of G-6.0106b is finally changed so that it will bring us one step closer to full equality in the PC(USA).

I will be reflecting on this action in the next several days and weeks. Many people will be excited and happy about the voting results (like me!) -- but, others will not... In the meantime, I share these words that I wrote back in 2008:
We are called to trust God in the process – really trusting that God is the one who is in charge. God calls us through scripture to live together, work together, pray together, worship together, and witness together.

I pray that we will seek to live out our calling to live as brothers and sisters in Christ, so that our willingness to look past our differences and declare together that Jesus Christ is Lord can bear witness to the amazing power of the love and grace of God!

Jesus said: "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:34-35 (NRSV)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

When Does Love Win?

I just finished watching President Obama tell the nation about the death of Osama bin Laden. I must admit that I have mixed emotions about this "achievement". On the one hand, I feel some relief knowing that a known murderer and terrorist has been eliminated. This is the guy who orchestrated the tragic events of 9-11. This is the guy who regularly celebrated the deaths of thousands of innocent people. Let's face it -- even if he had been captured alive, he would have faced the death penalty for his multitude of crimes. So, knowing that he has been brought to justice is welcome news.

On the other hand, I find myself somewhat uncomfortable with rejoicing over the death of someone -- even the death of such a sick, violent, twisted individual as Osama bin Laden. It doesn't sit well with me to cheer when there are acts of violence. While I understand many consider his death to be "justice", I can't help but see it more as vengeance. And as much as I wish that Osama's death would somehow mean that terrorism is now "done", I know that just isn't the case. So, I am hesitant to celebrate...

Now...before the President spoke, the news broke -- both online and on the various television news channels. There was a ridiculous amount of speculation on Twitter. But the speculation about what the President was going to talk about didn't bother me. The "leak" of the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed didn't really upset me all that much, either. What really bothered me was the words of hate and disdain that were being tossed about between political parties and their supporters...

Please. Someone help me understand how throwing insults is helpful. Someone help me understand how calling people or groups names adds anything positive. Someone help me understand how pointing fingers at people or groups we don't like or agree with is ever going to get us anywhere. Someone, please, help me understand how violent, hurtful words answer God's call to love one another.

Is This what peace looks like? Is THIS what unity looks like? When does love win? When do we dare to truly embrace the command to love our enemies? When do we finally decide to follow the command to bless those who curse us and pray for those who persecute us?

We aren't always going to agree on how things should be done. We aren't likely to agree on who should (or shouldn't) get the credit for things that happen in the world. And God knows that we aren't all going to agree on which people to vote for or which news channels to watch. But I pray that maybe -- just maybe -- we who call ourselves Christian might figure out a way to agree on the importance of showing respect to one another -- even when (and maybe, most importantly) we disagree so passionately about other things. If we can find that way... If we can dare to respect one another... If we can refrain from the temptations of violence and vengeance...then maybe...love can win...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Our Heyday Is Yet To Come

One of the scripture lessons that is often read on Easter Sunday – part of the “Easter Vigil” liturgy – is a lengthy passage from Exodus (Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21). In this scripture, we read about the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. We all know this scene – Cecil B. DeMille and Charles Heston made it famous. With Pharaoh’s army close on their heels, the Israelites come to the banks of the Red Sea, where it looks as though they will surely be recaptured. But, God instructs Moses to stretch out his hand over the sea – and, when he does, the water is driven back by a heaven-sent wind so that the people can cross the sea on dry land.

It is a great story. But, we might wonder… why it is part of the liturgy for Easter Sunday? I think that – along with the Resurrection stories that we read in the Gospels – this passage from Exodus could possibly be one of the best scriptures to read on Easter Sunday. Like the accounts of Jesus’ Resurrection, the story of the crossing of the Red Sea is a salvation story. These scriptures tell us about God’s desire to save – even when doing so may appear to be impossible. These stories offer dynamic testimony of how God always makes a way when (it seems that) there is no way.

These stories about the Exodus and Jesus’ Resurrection invite us to make a dramatic shift in our thinking. Conventional thinking would suggest that huge bodies of water are always impossible to cross on foot. Conventional thinking would suggest that death is always the end of the story. But when we shift our thinking – when we put on new, Spirit-tinted glasses and we tune in to see what God sees – then we discover that there are more possibilities than we originally thought. Suddenly, there are dry paths made in the midst of the waves. Suddenly, stones are rolled away and new life springs forth where there once was only death.

Without the shift in our thinking – when we are reluctant to wear those Spirit-tinted glasses – we end up slipping into the murky land of “Should-a/Would-a/Could-a”. The Israelites were there for a while, asking Moses why they had left Egypt only to die in the wilderness – faced with the obstacle of crossing the Red Sea, they were quick to abandon hope and suggest that they were better off as slaves in captivity! “We should-a stayed in Egypt! We would-a never faced this kind of hardship there! We could-a been safe – even as slaves.”

Without Spirit-tinted glasses (offered to us through the promise of God-provided salvation), we – like the Israelites – slip into the belief that our heyday is behind us! We might be tempted to look back to the “Church of Yesteryear” and pine for “the good-ol’ days”. But, God (thankfully) didn’t finish working in and with the Church 30, 50, or 70 years ago – if God had finished back then, we’d still be dealing with issues of institutionalized segregation and sexism in the Church!

Thank the Lord that God is still acting! God is still moving! God is still at work! God – through the Word – encourages us to put on a new vision and recognize this fact: because God is at work, our heyday is yet to come.