Friday, December 04, 2009

Would Jesus Withhold Mission Support?

That's always a good question, right? What would Jesus do?

Some of those who stand in great certitude about what Jesus would do are withholding their money from their ELCA congregations. Whole congregations are withholding mission support from the ELCA churchwide organization.

Forty-five people lost their jobs at churchwide, in part as a result of this withheld support. Budget cuts are more complex, of course--it's a bad economy and we continue to decline overall.

But a whole bunch of those people lost their jobs because of financial blackmail. Maybe that's harsh, but I don't think so, and if it is, then it is deservedly harsh. Our congregation disagreed with decisions made by churchwide for years, and never once voted to withhold funds. We would have considered it unjust. I would have considered it immoral. A good portion of the money that goes to churchwide funds disaster response, water programs in the 2/3 world, the ELCA World Hunger Appeal.

If we're going to call ourselves members of the ELCA, then we should commit to the organization, and that means supporting it with our dollars. It's no different than being the member of a congregation. If you commit to the organization, you are expected to support it. That's part of the commitment.

So, congregations withholding your money: please stop. Or withdraw altogether, as would be more honest and fair.

Money is a tool and we should definitely allow our values to direct our spending. But just as I don't shop at Walmart, I don't park in their parking lot, either.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Are We "Post-label"? Should We Be?

I was part of a panel yesterday at St. Paul School of Theology here in Kansas City. The panel was sponsored by Sacred Worth, a group at the seminary which supports and celebrates its LGBT students, most of whom are closeted because they are on the ordination track of the United Methodist Church, and there's no Extraordinary Methodist Ministries and someone should really start one...but that's another post.

At the forum, a topic was raised which has been rolling around in my head for a while now. A young man I know and like very much asked how welcoming churches ensure that their LGBT members are known for more than being LGBT. The responses from panel members then went mostly to the "labels are so not helpful" place.

I see where that thinking arises, and I understand it. It would be great if we lived in a world in which all were loved and valued equally, and perhaps the need to name ourselves by gender, sexual orientation, affinity, political persuasion, etc. is simply perpetuating the divisions in our society. Maybe if we stopped using labels we would stop needing them. "We borrow our authority from the future" is the way that Pastor Jeff Johnson--one of the deans of LGBT inclusion in the Lutheran church--has put it.

I see that thinking, but I raise you this: we don't live in that world of peace and harmony and equal value. We live in a culture which still privileges straight over gay, white over black (brown, yellow). We live in a world in which women are still paid significantly less for doing the same work as men and are denied opportunities in nearly every field. And as long as we live in that world, I think it is important to name those inequalities, and to claim our wholeness as black people, gay people, transgender people, women, Latino/a/s, queers, radicals and youth. If I left you out, please name and claim yourself.

Not naming ourselves doesn't keep us from being what we are. Not naming ourselves doesn't alter the field of disproportionate allocation of resources upon which we play. In fact, here's my big fear: when we do not name those who are pushed to the margins, we will default to privilege. When we do not have Black History Month, we'll continue to celebrate White History Month. Every month. And yes, that still makes the "score" eleven to one, and that's a big problem. But it's a start.

What do you all think? Are labels not helpful? Is there a way to usher in a new world without them? Or do you need to be named for exactly who and what you are?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Writer's BLOCK

Yeah, I actually do mean to have "BLOCK" in capital letters, even though that is the online equivalent of shouting. I'm having one of those days when I feel like shouting, mainly because I can't seem to write and I need to write because on Sunday I have to preach just like almost every Sunday and yes, that does get to be a little creatively challenging. Or it gets to be challenging to my creativity--that's more correct.

I'm thinking I'll write here and maybe that will help me write there.

So there was this guy Martin Luther and he had a hammer. He hammered in the mo-or-nin'. At least, I assume he used a hammer and the Peter, Paul and Mary reference works better if he did.

He had a hammer and he thought of ninety-five ways to say "The church is in error and the pope is a bad man and indulgences suck." A bit of an over-writer, Luther. Much different from an underwriter, which is someone who tries to deny you insurance.

Luther wasn't about denying. He was about affirming--affirming the relationship between people and a loving God who also wasn't about denying. The church had begun to proclaim a god (yes, I also meant the small "g") who was capricious enough to send folks to some mythical joint called purgatory until their families ponied up enough money to get them sprung. Because apparently this god was deeply invested in how many cathedrals could be built in his name (definitely meant "his").

That reminds I was reading the Word Alone Network News. (I'd link Word Alone, but I love you, gentle readers, so I don't want you going there. And besides, you all know how to work Google.) Word Alone is a conservative Lutheran organization dedicated to the idea that we must so fear and love God that we should follow scripture exactly as written (in Leviticus 18 and the other 4 passages, that is, but not the rest of Leviticus except where convenient and not Mark 9 where Jesus offers some really clear teaching about divorce). So the recently divorced president of the Word Alone Network is writing about the outcome of the Churchwide Assembly, and she was writing about this guy named God who didn't look familiar to me at all.

Is there more than one? We do seem to act that way sometimes. I'm not really claiming to be right here (though I do think that I am). I'm just sad that we can just all get along and we went through the Reformation over whether God saves us by grace or because we're good and we are still busy telling each other to be good and ignoring the plank in our own eyes.

And I'm no closer to a sermon now but maybe just a little and I meant to write that contradiction in the last sentence of this post.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Not a Vagabond Any Longer

I seem to have bought a house. It's not totally final yet, but things are looking good. So I have answered my beloved's request to take "vagabond" out of my little subtitle/descriptor/bio thingy at the top of the page.

It's late and I'm tired, but also wanted to say this. Barack Obama makes me proud to be an American. I don't love everything he's done, but he is a good man and he's doing as good a job as anyone could do right now. I think.

Oh, and I still love my Wolverines and those really awful Chiefs. These are the times that try fans' souls...

Monday, August 24, 2009

CWA: What Does This Mean?

I've been asked a lot over the past week what the decisions made at Churchwide would mean for myself and my congregation. It's kind of funny, really, that after all of these years of praying, begging, cajoling and demonstrating, the answer is actually "not a whole lot."

Oh, and also, "a whole lot." Great Lutheran paradox, that.

My congregation already has a pastor in a "same gender, life-long, monogamous, publicly accountable relationship." Okay, I'm fudging "publicly accountable" a little, since we are waiting until we live in the same state to take the ELCA up on its support of our getting married (they'd never say "married," but I can. Married married married. That's what they voted on and they know it.).

Our congregation is under censure by our Synod (the regional body--in this case Missouri and Kansas). Under the terms of our censure, we're not allowed to serve on committees of the synod or churchwide expressions. Which does leave us feeling a little cut off, and provides a great excuse to stop paying benevolence to the Synod--which I'm proud to say we have not done. We have done our best to stay in relationship with the larger church, and I'd say it has been mainly mutual. Bishop Mansholt has been expecially gracious in extending a hand of friendship to Abiding Peace.

But being under censure for eight years kind of sucks, and we'll be glad to have it lifted.

And I will be glad to stop suffering the little indignities that arise so often, especially around the first weekend in June, when the whole Synod meets in Assembly. I'll be glad to receive mail from the larger church addressed to "Rev. Donna Simon." I've been ordained almost nine years; I think it would be nice to be addressed properly. Someone in the Synod office actually works overtime making sure that I know that he or she doesn't recognize my ordination. I get mail addressed to "Ms. Donna Simon." If you left off the "Ms.," I'd just think you weren't using titles, and blow it off. But "Ms." says what it is intended to say: "This is the best you're going to get from us."

We submitted a resolution to the Synod Assembly this year, signed by over a hundred people. When it appeared in the Assembly notebook, I notice that my name was one space off of the line at the left margin. This was because they had deleted "Rev." from in front of my name, and hadn't gotten it pulled all the way back to the margin.

Little indignities. Sitting in the back. Not having a title. Sometimes not even having a name. I saw a dear friend, Pastor Karen Parker, at Churchwide. We had a class together while I was in seminary--a writing class with Brian Wren--go ahead and be jealous, those who know who Brian Wren is. I have seen Karen around the church over the years, and it was so nice to see her. We were chatting and she asked for my email address, which I started to give her. Then she said, "Oh, I'll just look you up in the Directory. I raised an eyebrow and she quickly realized why. "I guess I can't do that," she said. "Soon," I said, and we both smiled.

It will be nice to be in the Directory. It will be nice to maybe even get to help lead worship sometime at a Synod Assembly. Other than those things, not much changes for me. I'm already called as an out pastor, and I am committed to seeing our church grow and flourish.

I love that the opportunities for call will come to others, though. I love that I can say I'm proud of one of the churches which is extending a true hand of love and hospitality to God's lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and gay children.

What does this mean? All are welcome in this place.

CWA Wrapup, Very Brief

We will call and ordain lesbian and gay persons. We will bless same-sex unions.

More work is needed, as we are still allowing a lot of opting out on both of these.

But for now, we dance.

Friday, August 21, 2009

CWA Day Four

Today is the day. On the agenda: The four recommendations of the ELCA Sexuality Task Force, which--if passed--lead to the conditions under which a lesbian or gay pastor in a "publicly accountable, life-long, monogamous same gender relationship" could serve an ELCA church. We're not quite actually affirming the right to call a gay or lesbian pastor, since we're still allowing congregations (and perhaps synods, bishops, etc.--it's not clear) to respect their own "bound consciences" by refusing to call someone. It's a step on the pathway to full inclusion, and a good one.

I need to be in the hall, so will cheat and give you the ELCA News Service report on what has happened so far. Nutshell: We moved the resolution calling on ELCA members to respect one another's bound consciences to number one and approved it after lengthy conversation. (And can I just say that it is baffling to me that people would actually stand at a microphone and argue about whether or not we should respect one another. I wonder sometimes if they actually listen to what they're saying. A guy actually said earlier that "the purpose of the church is to provide standards for rostered leaders." Yes, he said "the." Definite article. Tautological argument. The church exists to provide standards for leaders of the church. Here I thought it was to be about Christ's mission on earth. Silly me.)

The second item up was Recommendation Two, which allowed for congregations that wish to do so to publicly affirm "life-long, monogamous, same gender relationships." A lot of conversation again (though I think less than on the first recommendation, which is bizarre to me). Then the question was called, and it passed by just over sixty percent and we cried, likely not for the last time today.

Back at the beginning of the day, the former governor of Minnesota (and what's with Minnesota governors?) offered a substitute to the four recommendations which mirrored the current policy language. Blah, blah, blah, and it received just 33.9 percent. We see there, though, that the supermajority would not have carried, so that vote on Monday is looming large. Speaking of which, they tried it again, inviting the Assembly to vote on whether a two-thirds majority should be required for resolutions related to ministry policy. It recieved just over forty percent, seven percent less than it received on Monday. They should probably quit while behind.

On a personal note, I am tired tired tired, but feeling wonderful. Colleen has been an amazing partner, supportive, helpful and loving. I am so glad to be here to witness this moment in the life of the church. And am going back to witnessing it now.

MINNEAPOLIS (ELCA) -- Voting members of the 2009 Churchwide Assemblyof the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) are in the middle oftaking steps to make it possible for the Lutherans in same-genderrelationships to serve as professional leaders in the denomination.The churchwide assembly, the chief legislative authority of the ELCA,is meeting here Aug. 17-23 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. About2,000 people are participating, including 1,045 ELCA voting members. Thetheme for the biennial assembly is "God's work. Our hands."Voting members have begun considering four distinct resolutions Aug.21, which are designed to change current ELCA policy that requires thedenomination's professional leaders to abstain from "homosexual sexualrelationships."The resolutions are contained in a report and recommendation onministry policies developed by the Task Force for the ELCA Studies onSexuality.A majority vote is required to pass each of the four resolutions.With a 771-230 vote, the assembly amended and approved a resolutionthat states "that in the implementation of any resolutions on ministrypolicies, the ELCA commit itself to bear one another's burdens, love theneighbor, and respect the bound consciences of all."With a 619-402 vote, the assembly approved a second resolution thatcommits the ELCA "to finding ways to allow congregations that choose to doso to recognize, support, and hold publicly accountably life-long,monogamous, same-gender relationships."Prior to considering the two resolutions, voting members defeated a"substitute" motion with a 344-670 vote to strike out all four resolutionsand replace it with the following: "rostered leadership of this church whoare homosexual in their self understanding are expected to abstain fromhomosexual sexual relations and practicing homosexual persons areprecluded from rostered leadership in this church." Albert Quie, votingmember from the ELCA Minneapolis Synod, made the substitute motion.As voting members were considering resolution two, Edward A. Kirst,voting member from the ELCA Northeastern Ohio Synod, made a motion torequire a two-thirds vote -- instead of a majority -- for approving theremaining resolutions. That motion was defeated with a 407-576 vote.During the afternoon plenary, voting members will consider the tworemaining resolutions -- that the denomination find a way for Lutherans insame-sex relationships to serve as ordained ministers and otherprofessional leadership roles in the church, and that the denominationconsider a proposal for how it will exercise flexibility within existingstructures and practices to allow for Lutherans in same-sex relations tobe approved for professional service in the church.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

CWA Day Three

Pretty uneventful day yesterday. A tornado hit the Convention Center and we passed the ELCA Sexuality Statement by the exact number of votes needed (676 to 338).

Just another day in the life of the Body of Christ, which is nudged forward and sometimes blown off of its heels by the Holy Spirit.

No one hurt in the tornado, though it did halve the steeple at Central Lutheran across the street. Central is the church which is graciously hosting Assembly members for worship and meals. They've set up an open-air restaurant in front and a pub in back. Both are in pieces now, and it is sheer blessing that the tornado didn't touch down during a mealtime or happy hour.

I missed the vote on the Sexuality Study, having made plans to share dinner with Lyle, a dear former member at Abiding Peace. But my friend Jen sent a text when it happened, and we rejoiced. I was surprised, since there was so much bickering back and forth about the statement, that I didn't think they'd get to a vote, even after extending the debate (hence my absence--I wouldn't have scheduled dinner during a Plenary).

The Goodsoil worship service was scheduled for last night, and it was grand that the vote did in fact happen, because we were buoyed by the good news, which just made the service that much more special. There had to be well over 500 people over at Central. Perhaps closer to 800 or more. The very large sanctuary was full. Barbara Lundblad (Numero Uno Preacher in the World) preached, and the music was great.

The air in that sanctuary was electric, and it is clear that a great healing is taking place. It will not be finished here; much more is needed. And we still have the vote on the ministry standards coming. That is the policy change in which we have invested so much fear and hope.

Pray for the Assembly. Pray for the church. Pray for those who will celebrate and those who will mourn. Pray for God's will to be done.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

CWA Day Two

First, an apology. The email access at the Convention Center isn't what I hoped. I thought I'd be able to get WiFi in the Plenary sessions, but it's not available. So I'm sending less than intended.

Second, I'm totally sharing Ruth Ellen's drinking game idea with everyone I know.

CWA: Day Two

The ELCA has voted in Assembly to launch the Lutheran Malaria Initiative. We will begin with at $2.8 million grant and then raise funds to do our part toward the very attainable goal of eradicating malaria. The initiative will concentrate on sub-Saharan Africa, though the hope was expressed from the Assembly floor and the dais that it will expand to other parts of the world in which malaria takes lives.

We also talked about human sexuality—the sexuality of gay humans, that is. We moved into a Quasi Committee of the Whole, which is fancy legal language for “a big structured conversation.” Persons line up at green and red microphones and get three minutes to share their feelings about the matter at hand—in this case, the ELCA Social Statement on Human Sexuality.

Folks at the green microphones felt that we ought to finally move forward toward real welcome of our transgender, bisexual, lesbian and gay neighbors.

Folks at the red microphones felt that we ought to quit talking about feelings. This is the Tactic Du Jour for the red mic crowd. Assign all impetus toward change to the realm of “capricious emotion.”

We heard this argument in a slightly different way at Synod, from the gentleman who argued that we seemed to be deciding policy “based on some kind of wishy-washy love thing.”

Is feeling such a bad thing for the church? Shall we really not use emotion as one (and it is only one, not the sole basis of our platform) deciding factor in making change?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Churchwide Assembly. It Begins.

Greetings from Minneapolis, Land O' Lutherans!

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's eleventh Churchwide Assembly has begun. Last night the first Plenary session was held, and the session, scheduled for two and a half hours, only went over by slightly more than an hour. This is a vast improvement over the Orlando Assembly back in 2005, when the first session went until 11:30 at night. Our Presiding Bishop, Mark Hanson, joked that it was 11:30 in Orlando when we ended, so those who had money in a pool should probably consider it a draw. He is a real card, our bishop.

This session went long, just as did the one in Orlando, because up for consideration was a change in the proceeding which would require a 2/3 "supermajority" to change the current ministry standards in the ELCA. This is a maneuver by conservatives to keep the standards as they are: sans homosexual participation.

A little backstory: We have reached the end of an eight year process of study mandated by the 2001 Churchwide Assembly. The ELCA convened a Sexuality Task Force, wrote a Statement on Human Sexuality, and made recommendations on changing our ministry standards to allow congregations to call openly gay pastors if they wish to do so.

This is a big deal.

So the question came up: how much of a majority do we need to pass these ministry recommendations? The Social Statement will need 2/3, per the ELCA bylaws. But changing standards and practices is usually a simple majority vote. The Church Council (the one for the whole church) recommended to recommend a simple majority, which is what it took to enact the policies, so there's some parity there.

The conversation was lllonnnng, and it veered rapidly into debate over the proposals, and not the procedures required to pass or deny them. Bishop Hanson admonished the speakers to avoid this veering, to little avail.

Long story short (too late!), the vote was evennnntually taken, and only forty-seven percent of the Assembly voted to require the supermajority. Since the change required a two-thirds vote, this means it failed by a bunch. Good start to the Assembly, I think.

Here's the News Service release:

August 18, 2009
ELCA Assembly Defeats Super-Majority Requirement
MINNEAPOLIS (ELCA) -- Voting members of the biennial assembly of theEvangelical Lutheran Church in America turned back a motion that wouldhave required a two-thirds majority for changes in policies relating to the rostering of clergy, associates in ministry, diaconal ministers and deaconesses. The vote, with 57 percent in opposition, came late in the evening of the first day of the gathering. A vote to allow people living in committed same-gender relationships to be on the professional rosters of the ELCA is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 21.The action leaves in place a recommendation that a simple majority vote be sufficient for the proposed policy changes. By vote of 979-24 the assembly adopted the order of business as recommended.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Get a Job!

I was talking with a dear friend and member of my church last night and she was sharing her frustration with the comments of Rep. Cynthia Davis of Missouri, who represents a wealthy suburban district outside St. Louis.

Rep. Davis has suggested that young people old enough to get jobs should be working at McDonald's, where they will get a free meal during their shift, rather than having lunch at churches offering free lunches over the summer.

(Parenthetical Thought: Maybe I should work at McDonald's. The Bristol makes us pay half price for lunch, which makes most of the menu out of reach for servers who are making an average of $25-30 for a lunch shift.)

Back to Rep. Davis. Her comments are dumb. And typical of social and fiscal conservative thought. If you are having a hard time, you should get a job. And ya know--they're right. Working is the best way to make money, if you don't happen to be part of a wealthy family in, say, suburban St. Louis. Of course, it is a lot easier to get a job if you happen to have all of the privileges of being from a wealthy family in suburban St. Louis.

And that's all I'm going to say about this, because my friend Andy has written an insightful, wise, brilliant blog article about the whole thing. Read it here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Stop Talking, Reverend. Please.

I have defended Jeremiah Wright in the past year. He has used language I wouldn't use, but we do not preach in the same context. I have tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, and have even blogged about how unfair it is to lift words and phrases out of the man's sermons in order to somehow taint him, and by extension, Barack Obama.

But I wish now that he would go on retreat and spend some time alone with God, working through his prejudices. Because when one doesn't have the sense to avoid making blatant anti-Semitic statements into a microphone, it's time to go up on the mountaintop and get straightened out. (Yes, I said "straightened." It's only a word, and it has more than one meaning. In this case it means "subjected to a little can of divine whoop-ass.")

Asked by a reporter whether he had talked to his former parishoner Barack Obama, Wright answered "Them Jews ain't going to let him talk to me. He'll talk to me in five years, when he's a lame duck, or in eight years when he's out of office." You can listen to it here if you have the stomach.

Questioned about the remark later, Wright said that he misspoke.

You think?

Unfortunately, he elaborated. What he meant to say was "Zionists."

Oh, well that's alright then.

I wonder who stayed up all night thinking of that clever semantic dodge?

Here's what he should have said: "Yeah, that was an awful thing to say. I had no idea that I was capable of such a hateful stereotype, and I'm ashamed to have said it. I apologize to the Jewish people, and to anyone who was offended by my remark. I am going up on the mountaintop now."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Panic in the Streets! Digital TV is Here!

Seriously, and I do mean seriously: if the conversion from analog to digital television signals is catching you by surprise, as it is some 16,000 people in the KC Metro today, then you obviously don't watch television. Because if you do watch television, you've been bombarded with reminders that you have to do something to your TV if it isn't digital-ready. You've also been bombarded with ads which suggest that you'll lose your signal if you don't subscribe to a cable provider. The premise of these ads is completely untrue--you just need a converter box, which costs an average of ten bucks if you use the free coupon the government sent out. It makes one wonder how much money Time Warner and Comcast paid to facilitate the switch, which is surely making them a fortune.
I'll just be glad when the switch is completed today, so that the constant reminders will cease, and I can return to the wholesome and educational programming normally on my television.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

That Wishy-washy Love Thing

Sunday, June 7, 2009. Lindsborg, KS. Central States Synod Assembly--Day Four.

This would be a very long blog entry if I tried to capture all of this Synod Assembly in a single article. So I'll try a few impressions first, with a promise to write more later. Right now I'm actually still sitting in a session, so just impressions for now.

First, the Synod Assembly is a yearly gathering of ELCA members, rostered leaders (clergy, Parish Ministry Associates, Associates in Ministry, etc.), synod staff, and churchwide leaders. The Central States Synod is comprised of all of the congregations and associations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America located in Kansas and Missouri. The Synod Assembly is the highest legislative body in our synod.

We've all been in Lindsborg, Kansas ("Little Sweden!") since Thursday afternoon. There's been lots of business, but really we've been focused on sex. Again. Not sex, really, but human sexuality. Not human sexuality, really, but homosexuality. And not homosexuality, really, but the burning question before our denomination: Will we let gay and lesbian persons who admit that they are not practicing celibacy to be pastors in our church?

We're also talking about the blessing of same-sex unions, but that issue doesn't seem to have the heat around it. Not sure yet what to make of that. It seems like the two are connected, actually...

We had conversation--a one hour "Committee of the Whole," more about this later--about a Statement on Human Sexuality which will be affirmed (we hope) by vote at the Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis in August. We voted to memorialize (this is church speak for "ask") the Churchwide Assembly to affirm the Statement. That vote passed by one vote more than a two-thirds majority. A good mandate, I think.

We had conversation--another one hour Committee of the Whole--about the Recommendations of the ELCA Task Force on Human Sexuality. I'll say more about the conversation in a later entry. After lunch, we voted on memorials to churchwide affirming the recommendations, which would allow for the recognition of persons in "publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships," the rostering of such persons, and a commitment to "honor the bound conscience" of persons who disagree across our church.

Some quick thoughts:

Tone of the Assembly: Anxious but respectful. There were few nasty remarks made at the microphone, and the only time the listeners reacted to what was being said was when a guy started in with Sodom and Gomorrah, which he informed us is "about homosexuality." About a hundred people said "no" at the same time, which is an interesting sound. Then the chair told us to settle down.

Number of hugs, high fives, winks, pats on the back, fist bumps and collegial arms-around-the-shoulder I received: I have no idea. I lost count somewhere after a hundred. Apparently people want this change to happen, realize that I will be a big beneficiary of the change, and are okay with that.

Final proof that conservatives just don't get Jesus: The most fascinating line of the whole Assembly was uttered at a red microphone during the discussion of the ministry recommendations on Day Three. The gentleman, having waxed irritated for a minute or so about how he didn't understand why we're even doing this, said, "I've looked at the [Sexuality Statement], and as far as I can tell, it seems to be based on some kind of wishy-washy love thing.

Yes, we mustn't be making decisions based on some ethic of love. Egads.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Out Is In

Here's one for the "Things You Already Knew" category. This just in from CNN: the generations are split about same-sex marriage. Forty-four percent of those polled recently by CNN believe same-sex marriages should be legal. Fifty-four believe they should not. Two percent apparently believe there is another category between "legal" and "not legal."

When you poll 18-34 year-olds, the number jumps to 58% in favor of legal same-sex marriages.

Yeah, so that's all stuff you probably already knew. The numbers continue to improve week by week (at least from my perspective); you probably knew that as well.

And here's something you probably knew intuitively. According to CNN polling director, Keating Holland, "People who say they have a gay friend or relative support same-sex marriage. Most of those who say they don't know anyone who is gay, oppose gay marriage."

People who know gay people like us and think we should be able to get married. People who don't know us (or think they don't) are probably more likely to see gay marriage as a sterile "issue."

Not everyone can come out, but the more of us who do, the more of us there are out there to know. And the more of us out there to know, the better we'll be doing.

So thanks to all of you who are out there. Thanks to all of you who live your lives without apology and allow your friends, coworkers and relatives to know you and love you. Thanks to all of you allies who love and support your LGBT friends and relatives.

We're coming a long way, friends. It gets better every day.

Monday, June 01, 2009

The Rock Obama!

I keep telling people they need to see this great bit from Saturday Night Live. I can't get a nice video posting from Hulu, but you can watch it if you click here.

You'll probably have to watch an ad first. Sorry about that. It's worth it, though. At least I think it is.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Who Is My Neighbor?

My next door neighbor was murdered by her husband during Holy Week. Probably Tuesday. The police obtained a search warrant and found her body on Maundy Thursday. She left a couple of daughters and a bewildered family.

It's hard to know what to do in a situation like this. The family isn't here. I did light a candle and place it in front of the house when we found out what had happened. But all gestures seem inadequate. She was a lovely woman, as far as I could tell. We honestly didn't have much contact, which also now seems inadequate. We chatted, most often about the weather. Kansas City affords a lot of weather-based conversation starters.

It's hard to wrap your mind around something like this. These are the things that happen on Law and Order, not in a bedroom two yards from where I'm sitting as I write this.

In the weeks since her death, the landlord has been readying her flat for rent, and the family has been packing up her stuff. At least I assume it's the family. About every third day, another box of her belongings appears on the curb. It's a stark reminder of the tragedy, and to be quite honest, I'll be glad when it stops. That's a lot of mortality out there on the concrete.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Toilet Troubles

You know, there are certain things I take for granted. A lot of them, actually, being a rather privileged white American with an education and a career I love.

I never have to worry about being fed. I can't eat out every night, but I always have food.

I take my health for granted.

I take clothing and shelter and access to clean water for granted.

And I take my toilet for granted. It's not working today. The water on my bathroom floor is not clean and I'll spare you the rest of the details. I'm sure one or two of you are grossed out by the fact that I've used the word "toilet" twice in this post already.

You take a running toilet for granted. When you don't have one, it really puts a crimp in the day. I'm trying to figure out whether to go to the gas station or just go out for lunch. (In order to use the facilities, that is. Oh, and eat, because now I'm having a kind of icky day and would like to take myself to lunch, which I can probably afford, though not every day. Things I take for granted.)

Nothing like a little sewage on the floor to get you to think about your priorities.
That's Abraham Lincoln's outhouse in Springfield Illinois in the picture, by the way. Lincoln couldn't take a toilet for granted. Such a great man and he had to go outside.
Though I'd kill for an outhouse today.

Friday, April 24, 2009

What If God Was One of Us? Or at Least Hanging Out with Us...?

Today's Onion has a finely written piece about God showing up at First Presbyterian Church. You can read it here.

Typical of The Onion, the article is a great piece of satire, and it also has some inner poignancy. I can't help but wonder what it would be like if God did show up at our services one Sunday. Would God be pleased? Would God find us too informal, or too structured, or just right. I like to think we're just right, but that's because the service reflects my own informality and also my fine Lutheran piety.

What do you all think? What if God showed up at our/your church?

Monday, April 06, 2009


Okay, so there's no way for Google to check for strange juxtapositions.

But this is odd, to say the least. I'm trying to find a recipe for a cherry cake-ish dessert for our Seder on Thursday. We're serious about the Seder, so it needs to be kosher. I bought kosher cake flour, which has a recipe for "apple kugel," and I bought cherry pie filling. So I'm just trying to find a nice kosher recipe that will put it all together. So I google "seder fruit cobbler cake flour," and I get this (do note the final juxtaposition):

"Easy Peach Cobbler Recipe - Recipe for Easy Peach Cobbler - Cake Mix Recipe ... Recipes - Home CookingChicken Soup RecipesPassover Seder FoodsHow to Cook Bacon ..."


That title is mine.

But the best line about the Iowa Supreme Court's unanimous decision that the state law limiting marriage to a man and a woman violates the constitutional rights of equal protection belongs (surprise surprise) to Jon Stewart.

Iowa, now the state more progressive than California.


I live below that state.


I got a ticket there once.

Maybe I'll send them some more money, just as a little thank you gift.
Hee hee.

Thanks, Iowa. You were already the best state to drive across (seriously--no state is more consistently beautiful than Iowa). Now you are the most equal state in the whole Midwest. Good for you!

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Plea from Donna's Palm Pilot

Hi there. Donna's Palm Pilot here. I hold her calendar, because she has all the organizational skill of a Bassett Hound. I need to ask for a favor, especially from you churchy folks.

Please, I'm begging you: stop scheduling things for the week after Easter. So far we have had to pick from 2-3 conflicting events every day that week, and Saturday the 18th and Sunday the 19th are the equivalent of scheduling armageddon. There must be 20 different places we could be that weekend (when, by the way, we have church, because unlike every other pastor in the free world, Donna doesn't take Low Sunday off).

The thing is...we don't really want to be anywhere that weekend. It's the weekend after Easter. We're both ready for a break. I've been ringing alarms and popping on and off for four days straight the week before. Well, weeks beforehand actually, since Donna can never remember what time she decided for the Seder.

I'm sure I speak for the calendars and devices of all of the other leaders at Abiding Peace as well. It isn't just Pastor Donna who works hard Holy Week. The good people of Abiding Peace are busy cooking and leading worship and helping set up and clean up. And they don't get to count any of that as work. So give them a break as well and don't ask them to come to things that weekend after Easter either.

I know you scheduling people wait until after Lent and Easter to plan your events and trainings and parties and concerts and meetings. I know you check your own Palm Pilots and Blackberries and notice that April 18th is the first Saturday after Lent and Easter. But there are actually thirty-six other Saturdays in the year.

Wouldn't it be possible to schedule a few things on those Saturdays?

Just asking.

Thank you for your time and your consideration of this request.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The View from the Back of the Bus

The ELCA released a document called "Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust" last month. This is the result of eight long years of "study" and conversation and general unease, ostensibly around "human sexuality," but really around "gay human sexuality." We're not actually studying straight humans, because we're already marrying and ordaining them. We studied them a long time ago, apparently, and didn't find them objectionable.

You can download the document here: I will warn you now that it is long. a special bonus for those who order'll also receive the "Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policy." That's the somewhat shorter document that proposes that we sort of adopt a policy for some synods and congregations--only the ones who want to--to call a gay or lesbian pastor, if they are so inclined.

I am really glad that we're making progress. I really am. We would be one of the only Christian denominations in the country with openly gay and lesbian pastors (accent on "openly"--we've all got gay pastors) if the recommendation is adopted. We already know that there are synods and congregations which will follow the procedure and open their call processes to gay and lesbian candidates. Probably not the synod in which I reside...

...and that's a bit of a rub. Not the part that makes this about me, exactly, but the part that makes this about all of the qualified candidates who still won't be considered, because the ELCA would make considering gay and lesbian candidates totally voluntary. A bishop whom I like and respect very much said this today in a press release: "No congregation or institution will be forced to call a leader they do not wish to call."

It is true generally in our denomination that a congregation can never be "forced" to call a minister they don't wish to call. Our pastors are called, not appointed, as in some other denominations. But it is also true that we don't allow congregations to close their call process to candidates on the basis of other considerations, like race or gender. So the Sexuality Task Force recommendations allow for a separate-but-equal sort of system, in which the vast majority of congregations will likely still choose not to consider gay or lesbian candidates.

So I'm a little grumbly about the whole thing, and would really like to know what some of you gentle readers think.

So what do you think?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

An Elegant Couple

When Sean Penn accepted the best acting Oscar this year, he expressed pleasure with our nation (yes, he really did) for "electing an elegant man president."

"Elegant"--that's a nice word for Barack Obama, especially if Penn meant it the way I think he did--something akin to "rich in complexity and eloquent." No one with full faculties could deny that our president is both.

But if President Obama is elegant, the First Lady is uber-elegant. And together, they are simply lovely. Not just because they make a striking picture. It's clear from the picture here that they are attractive people. But this picture shows a lot more than that. It shows two people who like one another and share a level of intimacy and joy in each other's presence. They are so cute the Secret Service guys don't know what to do. I imagine they ought to figure it out, though, because they're going to be privy to a lot of scenes like this.

Okay, so I really like these two. I like pretty much everything about them. I admire them. But it's not just hero worship. I think they are what we need in this nation, and for our relationship with the rest of the world. I love the idea that these are the two folks who will present the face of America at state dinners throughout the world. I love that they are passionate and fun-loving and smart, smart, smart. It is right and salutary to have a couple in the White House whose personal relationship is an asset to their life and ours.

So maybe I have a slight case of hero worship...

But look how gorgeous they are. How can you help it?

Monday, February 09, 2009

Council Meetings

A person shouldn't be blogging during a council meeting.

Should she?


Friday, February 06, 2009

Friday, January 02, 2009


I just heard this on NPR: "The White House continues to urge Israel to do their best to limit civilian casualties [in Gaza]."

I'm sorry, but that is unacceptable. The White House should be insisting that Israel stop attacking civilians. Anything less than that is a travesty.

I'm not defending Hamas, but I'm tired of this nation being an apologist for Israeli agression.