Friday, December 31, 2004

Epiphany Reflections from Center for Process and Faith

Check out this article: "Process & Faith Lectionary Commentary - January 9, 2005" by Tari Lennon for some good insights to this week's lectionary text, and also to the celebration of Epiphany as a whole.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Help South Asia Earthquake Relief through UMCOR

Here's a link to UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) with the information about how to donate toward earthquake/tsunami disaster relief. Please help if you can! More info:
South Asia Emergency -South Asia Earthquake and Tidal Waves
December 27, 2004 The United Methodist Committee on Relief is responding through its ecumenical partners to the catastrophe in South Asia. On Sunday, December 26, a massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake off the west coast of the northern Indonesian island of Sumatra caused tidal waves that have so far claimed the lives of more than 22,000 people in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Maldives and Bangladesh, according to news reports. Thousands of people are still missing and tens of thousands of people have been displaced. The full extent of the disaster is still not known in more remote areas in Sri Lanka, India and Indonesia, where ecumenical parters are responding.
Please give to Advance #274305 and designate 'South Asia Emergency' on the memo line of your check. Give through your local United Methodist church or mail contributions to: UMCOR, 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 10115. Call 1-800-554-8583 to make a credit card donation. One hundred percent of your gift goes to relief and recovery efforts. United Methodists' generous giving to the One Great Hour of Sharing, part of their ongoing contribution to mission around the world, supplements the cost of Advance gifts.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

finding neverland

I went to see Finding Neverland tonight, for an end-of-Christmas-Day treat. And what a treat! I definitely recommend it. Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet are excellent, and the children who are in it are amazing and will touch your heart. I don't think anyone was not crying by the end of the film, and the tugging at the heart strings was done in an authentic not contrived way, I thought. There's certainly a lot of content her for spiritual folks looking for meaning - there was a line I especially liked about time always chasing after us. Coming from the season of Advent, where counting time has been important, I paid attention to that part of the film. Five stars!! :)
Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Choose The Blue

an interesting link, found via The Liberal Mind:
Choose The Blue. This site shows listings of corporations, from supermarkets to automobile manufacturers, and gives statistics about their giving (direct/indirect/employee/etc.) to the 2004 political campaigns. The breakdowns are sometimes surprising, and always enlightening, I think, to realize just how much corporations can influence the political landscape. Wal-Mart, for instance, mostly supported the Bush camp, while Starbucks was in the 'blue' Kerry camp. Here's some details from the site, which is obviously for 'blue' consuming:

We believe corporations are as important as politicians in American Politics.

You know what party a politician supports. Do you know how much support a corporation* (through its connected political action committee) and its employees (through their political contributions) put behind a political party, its candidates, and its causes? compiles information from third party sources primarily to show certain reported spending by political action committees connected with a corporation* and by that corporation's employees as political contributions, in each case related to recent federal elections. .

If each American who voted "Blue" in 2004 spends $100 in 2005 on products of a corporation that by reason of its employees' or connected political action committees' political contributions supported "Blue" over "Red," $5 billion in revenues would be shifted to "Blue" supporting corporations!

This will be noticed! Choose where you buy ... and make a difference!!!

*Please Note: Corporations are generally not allowed to and do not make direct political contributions. This website's figures may combine contributions of a corporation's (and in some cases affiliates' and subsidsiaries') connected PACs, employees, and spouses. Not every corporation has a PAC.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Mary Monologues

Here is a quick link to the "Mary Monologues" that I am using for my late Christmas eve service this week. I always have a hard time finding dramas that I like both theatrically and theologically - this one seems pretty solid to me, for the most part. Check it out:
Mary Monologues: Mary Monologues
By Ron VandenBurg, based on the play 'Song of Mary', by John McNeil

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Bishop Woodie White's annual letter to Martin Luther King Jr.

I was glad to see that Bishop Wood White has not given up his annual letter to Dr. King even though he retired from active ministry this year. His letter always brings hope when I sometimes feel hopeless about racism. He brings up a good point about the appointment of Condi Rice to Secretary of State. Though I don't support her positions and politics, I, too, was suprised that so little was made in way of celebrating this highest post ever held in government by an African-American woman. Check out the whole letter here:
Bishop rejoices at progress in letter to Martin Luther King Jr. -
Dec. 14, 2004
Each year, United Methodist Bishop Woodie W. White writes a 'birthday' letter to his late colleague, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., about the progress of racial equality in the United States. Now retired and serving as bishop-in-residence at United Methodist-related Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, White was the first top staff executive of the denomination�s racial equality monitoring agency, the Commission on Religion and Race. Americans honor King's memory on the third Monday of January.
and an excerpt:

Dear Martin,
As I begin this letter I must tell you of an incident involving one of your closest associates and one of my dearest friends. A few months ago, he and I were on a panel addressing the issue of race in the United Methodist Church. We were especially assessing the gains made or not made, since the discontinuance of the Central Jurisdiction. This was the racially segregated organizational structure created by the denomination in 1939. In 1968, it was not continued when a new denomination, the United Methodist Church, was organized.
Following the panel presentation, a woman addressed a question to me, inquiring if I intended to continue my annual letter to you, indicating how much it was appreciated. I indicated it was my intent to continue this practice begun in 1976. Whereupon, our colleague quipped, 'Yes, Woodie, continue, I just talked to Martin and he said he enjoyed hearing from you!' The audience howled. Vintage Joe Lowery!"

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

a few ramblings: cats, a sermon, and a new link

first the new link: Jesus Politics, who I found through a link to my own site (thanks!)

second - I'm having a hard time getting going with my sermon this week. I find it funny, at least, along with frustrating. For three weeks of Advent, the texts have not clearly spoken of Jesus' birth, at least not in my mind, not in a direct way. But I found a way, as we all do, to see the Advent in them, so to speak. But this week, the text is very clearly talking about the birth of Jesus. And my mind feels closed to messages! What's your take on the Matthew text this week? How are you approaching preaching it, if you are? (Matthew 1:18-25)

third, finally, and unrelated to anything godly (!), I brought home a second cat - a kitten - yesterday, and am trying to introduce her (Ella) to my 1 year-old cat (Grayer). Who knew the stress this could cause, on me and on Grayer! Ella seems oblivious and happy as long as she has something to pounce on. But Grayer is on the verge of a breakdown of some sorts! Wish me luck...

Monday, December 13, 2004

Ten Practices of Just Peacemaking - Short, Sweet, and to the Point

Happened across this brief article on - Ten Practices of Just Peacemaking, Sojourners Magazine/January 2005:

1. Support nonviolent direct action.
2. Take independent initiatives to reduce threat.
3. Use cooperative conflict resolution.
4. Acknowledge responsibility for conflict and injustice and seek repentance and forgiveness.
5. Advance democracy, human rights, and religious liberty.
6. Foster just and sustainable economic development.
7. Work with emerging cooperative forces in the international system.
8. Strengthen the United Nations and international efforts for cooperation and human rights.
9. Reduce offensive weapons and weapons trade.
10. Encourage grassroots peacemaking groups and voluntary associations.

From Just Peacemaking, edited by Glen Stassen (Pilgrim Press, 1998)

I preached with a focus last week on Peace with Justice, so this little 'top ten' list caught my eye.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

good post from A Religious Liberal Blog

check out this post from A Religious Liberal Blog.

Dwight hits on a few topics I've been wanting to comment on lately, but they're all here for you in one good post, so I figure I'll just point you that way: Beth Stroud/welcoming churches/UCC ad, as well as comments about WesleyBlog's recent posts about liberal seminaries. Dwight mentions my favorite theologian, John Cobb, so extra points for that! I, too, went to a 'liberal' seminary, Drew, and though the faculty was certainly liberal, there was a great deal of variety and diversity in the student body who chose to study there, and I don't think less-liberal students were penalized for their beliefs. Challenged, of course. I loved my time at Drew, and I felt very well prepared for pastoral ministry, while I was at the same time challenged beyond what I could have anticipated in terms of my own faith development. I wouldn't trade it for anything. And the scholarship/teaching/etc., as A Religious Liberal points out with his good list of progressive theologians: top notch.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Faith-based communicators react to nixing of UCC ad by CBS and NBC

from the United Methodist News Service,
Faith-based communicators react to nixing of church ad:

Dec. 6, 2004
A nationwide group of faith-based communicators has added their voice to challenge the refusal of the CBS and NBC television networks to air a message from the United Church of Christ.
The statement, drafted by Communication Commission of the National Council of Churches USA, calls the networks actions 'arbitrary' and contrary to the principals of freedom of speech and equal access to media.

...“This is not about gays and lesbians; this is about the constitutional rights of a responsible organization to exercise the freedom to speak on a medium licensed to serve the public interest,” said the Rev. Larry Hollon, top executive with United Methodist Communications, the denomination’s communication agency.

“This decision calls attention to the reality that, for self-serving reasons, corporations in control of major media are in a position to filter and even block the legitimate speech by responsible voices,” Hollon said.

...“The controversial issue here is not the content of the ad, but the arbitrary standards of the network gatekeepers. Church doors are open to all who would come; but broadcast channels are increasingly closed to all but the wealthy and well-connected.

“It is important to note that the broadcast networks are not being asked to give free time to the United Church of Christ to express its message -- the church is ready to pay dearly for that privilege, even though the networks do not pay for their highly profitable use of the broadcast spectrum.

“The Federal Communications Commission, in giving free access to the public’s airwaves to commercial corporations--with virtually no strings attached--has handed them powerful control over America’s media “public square.” The for-profit keepers of that square are all too willing to promulgate messages laced with sexual innuendo, greed, violence, and the politics of personal destruction, but a message of openness and welcome that merely says ‘church doors are open to all’ is being silenced as too controversial!

“Advocacy advertising abounds on TV: agribusinesses, drug manufacturers, gambling casinos, oil companies, even some government agencies regularly expose viewers to messages advocating their products and programs, in the interest of shaping public attitudes and building support for their points of view.

“Are only the ideas and attitudes of faith groups now off limits? Constitutional guarantees of religious liberty and freedom of speech, not to mention common fairness, beg for leadership by the FCC to assure that America's faith community has full and equal access to the nation's airwaves, to deliver positive messages that seek to build and enrich the quality of life.”

This statement was signed by many communicators from several denominations who are part of the NCC - UMC, UCC, PCUSA, ELCA, Episcopal, etc.

Understanding the truth (and lies) about liberals and conservatives -Steven Waldman --

Understanding the truth (and lies) about liberals and conservatives By Steven Waldman --
Perverted, God-Hating Frenchies vs. Inbred, Sex-Obsessed Yokels
Why Can't Liberals and Conservatives Get Along? Because They Fundamentally Misunderstand Each Other

That's the catchy mouthful of a title of this article by Steven Waldman I found on beliefnet. I encourage you to read the whole thing, but here are the main points:

They're Just As Moral As Conservatives

They're Just As Smart As Liberals

Most Are Religious

They Don't Want a Religious Dictatorship

They Believe History Is On the Side of Tolerance

The Pro-Life Position Is Born of Compassion

Most Support Separation of Church and State to Protect Religion

They Feel Under Assault

Family Values Are Revered

They Believe American Culture Has Become An Insult to God

I think Waldman makes some good arguments. I don't agree with him 100% on his interpretations or justifications of either 'side', but I think he puts some of our caricatures of other another in perspective. There are always some on any side who are the extreme version - some liberals and some conservatives who I think are genuinely evil. And I think there are some liberals and some conservatives who don't fit in the assigned boxes they're supposed to. But generally, these 'truths' seem to hit some major themes, and can be easily applied to both the political world and religious communities...

Friday, December 03, 2004

sermon on Isaiah 11:1-10 by Edward F. Markquart

In preparing for my sermon this week, I came upon this sermon by Edward F. Markquart on Isaiah 11:1-19, the peaceable kingdom. I don't normally just link to other sermons, but his was exactly where my head had been this week. Check it out!

My favorite section - the intro:
"Wouldn’t it be nice? Wouldn’t it be nice if there wasn’t so much killing going on right now in Iraq? Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it be nice if the Muslims and Christians in the Sudan would miraculously started to live together in peace? Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it be nice if there were no death squads in Columbia and people weren’t shooting each other? Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it be nice if there were peace on earth?
Or, if you can’t have peace between nations, wouldn’t it be nice to have peace within our families? Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a whole week together as husband and wife and not have a fight? Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it be nice if your children did not fight with each other? Wouldn’t it be nice to go on a family vacation and not have any blow-ups? Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it be nice if tempers didn’t flare so quickly, like a match that suddenly ignites? If you can’t have peace in Iraq, maybe we could have peace at home and in our families. That would be nice.
Or, if that isn’t possible, wouldn’t it be nice to have peace within myself? Wouldn’t it be nice if I weren’t so harsh with myself? Wouldn’t it be nice if I didn’t explode at myself in anger? Wouldn’t it be nice if my guts were calm? Wouldn’t it be nice if I could sit around all night and not have a compulsion to eat ice cream or drink wine or beer in order to calm my nervous stomach? Wouldn’t that be nice? If I can’t have peace between nations or peace within the family, maybe I could at least have some peace within me?
Or, if I couldn’t have these, wouldn’t it be nice to have peace at least a few days before or after Christmas? We all know what time of year this is, Christmas time. During Christmas, we are often short of money, short of time, and short of temper. In preparation for the Prince of Peace, wouldn’t it be nice to have a little bit of Christmas peace at your house or mine?"

Thursday, December 02, 2004

United Methodist court revokes Beth Stroud's credentials

United Methodist court revokes Beth Stroud's credentials:

Dec. 2, 2004

By Linda Green and Linda Bloom

PUGHTOWN, Pa (UMNS) A United Methodist lesbian clergywoman has been stripped of her ministerial credentials by a church trial court.

The Rev. Irene Elizabeth 'Beth' Stroud was found guilty Dec. 2 of engaging in "practices that are incompatible with Christian teachings." After that 12-1 decision, the trial court, or jury, entered a penalty phase and voted 7-6 to strip Stroud of her ministerial credentials, effective immediately.

Stroud, 34, is not able to perform the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion but plans to remain on staff at First United Methodist Church of Germantown in Philadelphia, where she had been associate pastor since 1999.

She has the right to appeal the court's decisions in 30 days to the denomination's Northeastern Jurisdictional Committee on Appeal.

At the trial's conclusion, Stroud acknowledged in a press conference the divisive nature of the issue of homosexuality, which was visible during the proceedings. Looking at the trial court, she said, "in every face that I saw, I saw pain, and in every face I saw, I saw compassion."

I guess the verdict was expected, though I had hope that Beth Stroud would not be stripped of her credentials. Not much else to say about this, I guess, that hasn't been said elsewhere, I'm sure. One of the things that bothers me most: It is not against UM law to be a celibate gay pastor, just a practicing gay pastor. Doesn't it seem, then, that people are upset by the idea of gay sexual relationships? To me, that a pastor can be gay if he/she is celibate implies an understanding that being gay/lesbian is in itself not wrong, or at least, not a choice. It is, after all the "practice of homosexuality" that is forbidden by UM church law. But by our law, 'practice' equals 'sexual acts'. And by that equation, we've pigeon-holed God's gift of sexuality into just a tiny component that's only about who we sleep with. What a shameful abuse of God's gift!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

CBS and NBC reject an add from the UCC showing acceptance of gays and lesbians

I was alerted to this via chuck currie's blog, and then read this article about it on which i quote below:

CBS bans church ad inviting gays
Network says church spot welcoming gays is advocacy advertising; NBC said to take same line.

December 1, 2004: 4:24 PM EST
By Steve Hargreaves, CNN/Money Staff Writer
NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -

CBS has refused to run an ad by a liberal church promoting the acceptance of people regardless of sexual orientation because the network believes the ad is advocacy advertising.
The church also says the ad was banned on NBC.
The 30-second spot, run by the United Church of Christ, features two muscle-bound bouncers standing outside a church, selecting people who could attend service and those who could not. Among those kept out are two males who appear to be a couple. Written text then appears saying, in part, "Jesus didn't turn people away, neither do we."

"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples...and the fact that the executive branch has recently proposed a Constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast," the church quoted CBS as saying.
A CBS spokesman confirmed that the ad was banned, but would not comment directly about the above statement.
"It was against our policy of accepting advocacy advertising," said the spokesman.
NBC did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
"It's ironic that after a political season awash in commercials based on fear and deception by both parties seen on all major networks, an ad with a message of welcome and inclusion would be deemed too controversial," said Rev. John Thomas in the statement.
"We find it disturbing that the networks in question seem to have no problem exploiting gay persons through mindless comedies or titillating dramas, but when it comes to a church's loving welcome of committed gay couples, that's where they draw the line."

I highlighted the two sections most disturbing to me - first, the CBS would actually reject the commercial because the Bush Administration might hold views and advocate for policies that are in conflict with the UCC's views - appalling, and scary. Second, I think Rev. Thomas hits on an important fact - with programs like Will & Grace which show gay and lesbian lifestyles as acceptable, how can they reject this commercial? I'm frightened at the implications of decisions like this. Where will it stop?

By the way, you can check out the 'offending' commercial at