Friday, April 29, 2005

Appeals committee reverses church trial verdict in Stroud case

Many of you will have already heard that the Appeals committee has reversed the defrocking of Beth Stroud. Check out the UMNS article here. Follow this link for the actual text of the verdict/findings.

I'm not sure what to make of it all. I strongly suggest reading the verdict in full - it explains it much more clearly than a lot of the blogs and such I've seen so far, especially from those who disagree with the results. But for my own thoughts?

On the one hand, i am very wary of the appeal going this way on a errors of law - i fear the consequences this will bring in General Conference 2008 - i fear that this will encourage conservatives to seek for even more definitive and restrictive wording than there already is. With my whole heart and faith, i wait for the day that general conference changes positions on human sexuality, and i am confident that this day will come. This way - through an appeal - is not how i want it or see it successfully coming.

However, I understand the desire to see justice served (which is how i believe the liberals/progressives would view the 'intent' of the verdict, even if others don't see it that way) even if it has to be done in ways of finding loopholes. Sometimes you feel like that is the only option, and that it is better to get justice in a last-resort way than no justice at all. Just a thought. Of course, it all hangs on whether you think it is just or unjust to begin with to keep people who are gay and lesbian from ordained ministry...But that's how I think the argument plays out, at least for me.


Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich

I just finished Nickel and Dimed - On (not) Getting By in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich. It records the author's foray into low-wage working-poor jobs - cleaning person, waitress, and Wal-Mart employee. She tries to find housing, find a job(s), and see how she can(not) survive this way for a month.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book. Sometimes I found her style too sarcastic - that she was too stereotyping in her views or too flippant about her whole project and the people with whom she found herself interacting. On the other hand, I found some of her self-reflection inspiring in its humility. She admits to herself that she half expected to have people tell her how great she was at these low-paying jobs, or that someone would recognize that she was too smart and too educated and too out-of-place for the work she was doing. Instead, she finds it is hard to learn how to do the jobs she takes, and hard work to keep doing them each day.

But primarily, the book was eye-opening and informative. It reads like a novel - she has a great story-telling style, so it is a quick read if you have some time. But it's full of useful information that you would just never guess about how hard it is to get by if you haven't been there yourself.

I found her references to Christianity sometimes borderline insulting - but one section, where Ehrenreich attends a revival, really hit me for its truthfulness:

"It would be nice if someone [at the revival] would read this sad-eyed crowd the Sermon on the Mount, accompanied by a rousing commentary on income inequality and the need for a hike in the minimum wage. But Jesus makes his appearance here only as a corpse; the living man, wine-guzzling vagrant and precocious socialist, is never once mentioned, nor anything he had to say. Christ crucified rules, and it may be that the true business of modern Christianity is to crucify him again and again so that he can never get a word out of his mouth . . . I get up to leave . . . and walk out to search for my car, half expecting to find Jesus out there in the dark, gagged and tethered to a tent pole."

Neat idea: Leftover Gift Cards

I found this idea in Relevant magazine (pg. 18):
If you have left over gift cards, from Target or Sears or whereever, with those little balances after you've made a purchase, like .93 cents or something, you can now turn them in and let the remainder be donated to charities, like American Red Cross or Salvation Army, through

All you have to do to donate is write the value on the front of the card in permanent marker and mail it to:
5885 Cumming Highway, Suite 108 #309
Sugar Hill, GA 30518

Monday, April 25, 2005

quote from John Wesley's Journal

Check out this post John Wesley's Journal for a timely excerpt from his 1742 journal:

"Many met together to consult on a proper method for discharging the public debt; it was at length agreed 1) that every member of the society, who was able, should contribute a penny a week; 2) that the whole society should be divided into little companies or classes--about twelve in each class; and 3) that one person in each class should receive the contribution of the rest and bring it in to the stewards weekly."

The whole community works together to relief the burdens of those with the least - what a concept!

Saturday, April 23, 2005

General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) Spring Meeting

Last weekend I went to the spring board meeting of GBCS - you can read some highlights here at the GBCS website. I particularly recommend reading General Secretary Jim Winkler's remarks - this time centered on the Luke 18 passage of the "persistent and consistent" widow. I always find Jim's remarks inspiring and encouraging - he speaks plainly about the task he envisions set before the Church, and I feel he always gives a prophetic message. Also excellent was the message of our president, Bishop Beverly Shamana, which unfortunately is not available on-line. She preached using the sections of the social principles interspersed with hymns. She also used a couple of quotes that I jotted down - one from Albert Einstein, "We are all here for the sake of others," and a quote from JFK Jr., "those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."
We also enjoyed hearing brief comments from the General Secretary of the General Commission on Religion and Race, Rev. Chester Jones. He gave a great but short talk using The Velveteen Rabbit as the basis for his words. I wish I had a copy of that too, because I made no notes, just enjoyed hearing him.
Anyway, check out the highlights. While you're there, check out UMPower, which makes it super easy to send letters, complete with UM supporting statements from our Discipline and Resolutions, to Senators and the like. You can also sign up for MegaVote there, which enables you to get a weekly e-mail telling you how your representatives voted in Congress and what items of legislation are next on the agenda.

Friday, April 22, 2005

from - E-mail's 'hurt IQ more than pot'

Uh-oh. I'm in trouble, according to this article
"E-mails 'hurt IQ more than pot'" That's right...
"Workers distracted by phone calls, e-mails and text messages suffer a greater loss of IQ than a person smoking marijuana, a British study shows.
The constant interruptions reduce productivity and leave people feeling tired and lethargic, according to a survey carried out by TNS Research and commissioned by Hewlett Packard."

I'm in trouble. I am an e-mail addict. Suddenly, I can just feel the IQ points vanishing...

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Earth Day Sunday / Festival of God's Creation

Don't forget - this Sunday is Earth Day Sunday, or, in the UMC, Festival of God's Creation Sunday. You can find worship resources and other materials here, from the Eco-Justice Working Group of the National Council of Churches.

UMCom launches syndication service for church Web sites

United Methodist Communications is launching syndication services. Now you can subscribe to the feed with your newsreader, incorporate the feed into your person, church, or conference site, etc. Check it out:
UMCom launches syndication service for church Web sites:
"NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)-The United Methodist Church's communications agency is introducing new syndication formats that will enable local church Web sites to make the latest denominational news available more easily."

Pope Benedict elected

Today, you've no doubt heard, Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope, taking the name Benedict. I was disappointed, after such hopeful talk about electing a Latin American or African Pope, to find a Pope from Germany elected instead. From, I find these quotes indicating that this new Pope may be more, not less conservative and traditional than Pope John Paul II was:
"As a young priest he was on the progressive side of theological debates but shifted to the right after the student revolutions of 1968. In the Vatican, he has been the driving force behind crackdowns on liberation theology, religious pluralism, challenges to traditional moral teachings on issues such as homosexuality, and dissent on such issues as women's ordination. "

What a shame. But I guess we'll wait and see how things pan out. Also to note is the new pope's age: 78. I read of speculation before the voting on how old the pope would be - an older pope perhaps suggesting the desire for a sort-of 'interim' pope of sorts.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

John Wesley's Journals as a blog

I just happened on this blog via Southern Liberal Methodist, which I also just found: John Wesley's Journal. This blog is a project that 'reposts', so to speak, one entry at a time. You can subscribe, and get your daily dose of JW!

Friday, April 15, 2005

1 Peter 3

Sometimes, preparing for sermons, I run across Bible verses I've just never noticed before. Today's find, appearing in the lectionary on the 6th Sunday of Easter, is 1 Peter 3:15-16a - "Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; Yet do it with gentleness and reverence."

How do you defend your hope? Do you have hope? How do you explain it? Maintain it?
And how do you express it with gentleness and reverence?

An Open Letter to the RENEW Network from Jan Love

I found this article via United Methodist News Service:"An Open Letter to the RENEW Network by Jan Love, Deputy General Secretary "

Jan Love, new Deputy General Secretary for the Women's Division of the UMC does a great job, I think, of addressing the concerns of RENEW Women's Network, a group that seeks to call the Women's Division to "accountability." I suggest reading the whole letter, but here are a couple segments that jump out to me -

"The reason I recommend these materials [listed elsewhere in the letter] to you is that, from our point of view, your criticisms of the Women's Division seem to distort our work and portray us as less than the conscientious Christians we all strive to be. We know that you disagree with some of what we do. We would not expect you to abandon your positions, perspective or critique of the Women's Division. From your point of view, however, do your disagreements with us make us any less committed to Jesus Christ than you are? We do not call into question or imply any doubt about the basic integrity of your faith commitment. We ask you to grant us the same courtesy and respect. We know and love Christ just as you do, yet at times we do not recognize your descriptions of our work as accurate portrayals of what we actually do."

This climate of distortion of the views of those we disagree with is so destructive and painful, and certainly, I know, is not limited to any one group or perspective in our church. I really like Love's words on this. When, with our disagreements and accusations, are we really saying that we doubt others' faith commitments?

Love also shares this quote from Tony Campolo, in response to a question about Interfaith Dialogue and Religious Pluralism:

"I don't know of any other way of salvation, except through Jesus Christ. Now, if you were going to ask me, "Are only Christians going to get to heaven?" I can't answer that question - I do not claim to be able to read the mind of God and when evangelicals make these statements, I have some very serious concerns...

I don't know how far the grace of God does expand and I'm sure that what the 25th chapter of Matthew says is correct--that there will be a lot of surprises on Judgment Day as to who receives eternal life and who doesn't. But, I try to make the case that we have to stop our exclusivistic, judgmental mentality. Let us preach Christ, let us be faithful to proclaiming the Gospel, but let's leave judgment in the hands of God."

When in doubt, I always hope to find God even more full of grace than I can possibly imagine.

Good words.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Final Thoughts - Les Miserables

I finally finished Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. I'll admit to bawling for the last few chapters. But I want to post some quotes from late in the novel where the police officer Javert commits suicide, after relentlessly pursuing the former convict Jean Valjean. He lets Valjean escape when he realizes that the man is ethical and just despite the law, and for Javert, who has been duty-driven to follow the law no-matter-what, a cognitive dissonance, an impossibility of two conflicting beliefs. Anyway, here's some passages:

"His ultimate anguish was the loss of all certainty. He felt uprooted. The code was no longer anything but a stump in his hand. He was dealing with a scruples of an unknown species. Within him there was a revelation of feeling entirely distinct from the declarations of the law, his only standard hitherto. To retain his old virtue, that no longer sufficed. An entire order of unexpected facts rose and took control of him. An entire new world appeared to his soul; favor accepted and returned, devotion, compassion, indulgence, acts of violence committed by pity on austerity, respect of persons, no more final condemnation, no more damnation, the possibility of a tear in the eye of the law, a mysterious justice according to God going counter to justice according to men. " (pg. 1323)

"[Javert] had a superior, M. Gisquet; he had scarcely thought, until today, of that other superior, God. This new chief, God, he was feeling unawares, and he was perplexed by that. He had lost his bearings in this unexpected presence; he had no idea what to do with this superior; he who was not ignorant of the notion that the subordinate is bound always to yield, that he should neither disobey, nor blame, nor discuss, and that, in presence of a superior who astonishes him too much, the inferior has no resource but resignation. But how to manage to send in his resignation to God?" (pg. 1325)

Akasha's Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

OK - not my usual fare to post recipes, but click here for the best vegan chocolate chip cookies I've ever had. (The recipe is under the desserts section at the top right). You won't even notice they're vegan, I swear.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Religion and American Life survey from MSNBC

check out this survery from MSNBC: Results of NBC survey on religion and American life

It covers a variety of questions, many on whether churches should be involved in different social issues or not. The responses are intriguing. Note, for example, how many people don't think that churches should be involved in civil rights. Or the percentage of people that subscribe to a "total biblical" view of creation. That one really surprised me, I must say.

MD Legislature: the anti-Wal-Mart

check out this post, over at The Liberal Mind.

an excerpt:
"MD Legislature: the anti-Wal-Mart
The government in Annapolis has passed legislation which will require all corporations employing 10,000 or more employees to either (1) spend at least 8% of their payroll on health benefits or (2) put the money directly into the state's program that provides healthcare for the poor.

What it comes down to in Maryland is that 4 employers (Wal-Mart, Giant Food, Johns Hopkins University, and Northrop Grumman) employ 10,000 workers or more. Hopkins, as a not-for-profit institution only has to cover 6% under the legislation. And both Giant and Northrop Grumman already meet the 8% requirement for their employees."

Sounds like an interesting in-the-right-direction bill to me, but the article quoted suggests a good chance of it not making it all the way through. alas!

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Gutless Pacifist: A Modern Creed

found this: A Modern Creed via The Gutless Pacifist, attributed to R. Vallet, Congregations at the Crossroads:
"A Modern Creed -
I believe in my income and Standard of Living, maker of pleasure on earth. And in Things-I-Own and Things-I-Want-To-Get, which are conceived by desire for possessions born of a regular paycheck, suffered under monthly payments, then glorified, cherished and admired. They descend in their value, but on a future day I'll acquire some more, ascending in my status, 'til I sit in quite comfortable retirement, from whence I shall come to enjoy them all without end. I believe in my home or apartment, my comfortable automobile, my vacation with pay, my insurance for life, the satisfaction of my wants and a bank account ever increasing. Amen. [based on The Apostles' Creed]"