A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Saturday, July 31, 2004

I wanted to highlight two blogs Transparent Eye and Social Gospel Today which make for interesting reads, the first for it's theological depth and the latter for it's connecting faith and a progressive political vision.

A number of folks have been praising the speech by my future senator Barak Obama, especially his mastery of religious language in the presentation of his ideas. A bit of boasting: I voted for him in the primary and will be doing all I can to work for his election this fall. His speech, which spoke of one America was one of the most moving moment in politics I've seen for a long time.

One of the challenges though, which I have not seen raised much, is how to negotiate one's use of religious language in a way which can include not just religious folks such as myself, but all Americans, including those who do not identify with religion. Not an easy task but an essential one in a pluralistic society, such as our own.

And it's been 30 years now since women have been ordained as priests in the Episcopal Church. The denomination's website has a number of suggestions one might take up to celebrate this event. My favorite is the suggestion to write women clergy who you know in the church, who have made an impact on your life and thank them for their ministry.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

We have a chance to take a giant stride forward for the good of all humanity. We can choose between the future and the past, between reason and ignorance, between true compassion and mere ideology.-Ron Reagan

Ron Reagan's speech on stem cell research at the convention has been one of the highlights of the last few days. Chuck Currie pointed out something which has not figured into this discussion...the role some religious bodies have played in supporting Reagan's cause.

For instance, the United Church of Christ, Unitarian Univeralist Association, and Reform Judaism have spoken out in support of federal funding in this area. Hopefully these religious voices will be heard on this issue.

The Rev. George Wayne Smith, the Episcopal bishop of Missouri has spoken out against a state constitutional amendment which bans gay marriage and he reminds all of us of what really strengthens families.

Spend more time with spouse and family; build networks of support for married people in faith communities and extended families and neighborhoods; dig deeper into the traditions of faith - the disciplines and the feasting alike; practice living openhandedly with one another and in all things, for God's sake.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Steven Waldman, editor of Beliefnet, has an interesting blog on religion and the political conventions. He catches the references others may not notice like Clinton's use of Isaiah to frame some of his speech last night.

While the focus on values does not appear to have done much to win over evangelicals, in terms of the rest of the country there does appear to be an affect. A slight majority of Americans believe that John Kerry, not George Bush, represents their values.

While much of the media focus has been on those who have been upset with the consecration of Gene Robinson, here's a piece from the Boston Globe, on the numbers of people who are attracted to the Episcopal Church because of their open stance.

But sometimes missions are difficult to sustain when a diocese is financially crippled by the right. In Colorado, a successful start up congregation will likely close because conservatives have withdrawn funds from the diocese to protests the bishops' support of Robinson.

And a ELCA Lutheran congregation in Minneapolis made history with it's ordination of a gay minister. While this is an action prohibited by the denomination, there is a question about the response of the bishop. St.Paul Reformation in Minnesota has had ordained gay and lesbian leadership for years without facing punishment. But we'll have to wait and see.

Monday, July 26, 2004

"At six months, at one year, at two years -- has anybody ever met a child who hates anybody?" Kerry asked the crowd. ''I'm a Catholic. Hasim's Muslim. And there are, I hope, Jews, other denominations here, and maybe people who are agnostic, I don't know. But here's what I know: I'm running to be president of the United States of America," he said, emphasizing the word united. ''I'm running to be president of all of the American people, all of our citizens."
Philocrites highlights a moving moment of Kerry on the campaign trail.

And in what has been called "a really dramatic statement of intent and hope "Catholic, Anglican, Uniting, Lutheran and Congregationalist churches, the Churches of Christ, Quakers, Salvation Army and seven Orthodox churches in Australia have signed a compact which includes the sharing of clergy, property, and common acceptance of each other's baptisms. With the news of division and schism which is racking the church, events which point to what we can do together as a church is encouraging.

In the discussion of moral and religious beliefs during this campaign, one hopes that foreign affairs, how we relate to others, is central to that discussion. And watching the Democratic Nat'l Convention I was really impressed. Especially with the speeches by Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, as they articulated a starkly different foreign policy from our current president:

We live in an interdependent world in which we cannot possibly kill, jail or occupy all of our potential adversaries. So we have to both fight terror and build a world with more partners and fewer terrorists.-Clinton

Today, our dominant international challenge is to restore the greatness of America, based on telling the truth, a commitment to peace, and respect for civil liberties at home and basic human rights around the world.- Carter

Saturday, July 24, 2004

A minister in the Church of Scotland recently presided over the blessing of a same sex union. I wonder if there will be calls to kick Scotland out of the Anglican communion.
correction: I was informed by Simon Says that the Church of Scotland is presbyterian. The anglican body is the Scottish Episcopal Church. I messed up because I assumed since the Church of Wales and the Church of Ireland were anglican, the Church of Scotland must be as well...oops!

And the US House has just recently passed legislation which eliminates the judiciary's power to review cases which deal with same sex unions. This tactic is also in the works with legislation banning oversight over cases dealing with the pledge of the alliegance. Is the desire to target gay and lesbians so strong that our system with it's checks and balances is worth running rough shod over? Apparently so.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Some might remember the news about Rev. Stephen Van Kuiken. He is a former Presbyterian pastor of an Ohio congregation who faced a church trial by the presbytery for blessing same sex unions.  The result was the losing of his position and his ministerial credentials. A higher church body overturned the decision but the pastor decided to leave the denomination.  

But apparently he has now received a call from the United Church of Christ’s Southern Ohio Northern Kentucky Association  to serve as a minister. This story is an example of how too many people are being driven out of the church. It's also a story of how the UCC is starting to become a refuge for such folks.

If one wanted to see how such trials get their start, what needs to happen for someone to become a target for a denomination, this piece by a conservative women's group in the Presbyterian Church is a good place to start. One denominational staff person attended a feminist theology conference in Boston and now the calls for "punishment" are coming forth.

Here's two blogs of interest. Outside the Box contains a number of thought provoking posts about the Christian faith from a person who is interested in seeking ordination in the UCC. Thanks go to Chuck Currie for pointing this site out. The other blog, Working Things Out, is from a fellow grad student and friend at SIU. He writes with depth and detail on a range of topics from Cornel West to process thought.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

The stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church USA Clifton Kilpatrick sent out a clarification of what went on in the  general assembly in relation to Israel and Judaism. This letter addressed a number of concerns while sidestepping other ones. 

The disinvestment campaign is not a blanket one, it is not a boycott of Israeli goods and firms. It's rather targeted to specific companies who are directly involved in the violence and suffering of Palestinians. The denomination is also on record in it's denunciation of the violence and terror attacks being committed by Palestinian groups.

But the issue of funding of a messianic congregation was sidestepped. Kilpatrick argued that the decision to fund was determined by the presbytery in question and that the national body only supplements such expenditures. But this is still an endorsement by the national body of the efforts to target Jews for conversion. It also does not address the fact that the national denomination can and does overrule presbytery activity (as has been seen when it comes to gay and lesbian ordination) .

But Kilpatrick notes that a study has been set up by the general assembly which will explore the state of Jewish-Christian relations and examine what courses of actions, in terms of missions and evangelism, is appropriate in light of these relations. We'll see what comes of the study and if it impacts the national church at all. A previous study from the 1987 rejected conversion activities does not appear to have impacted the denomination's decisions in this regard.

And in the end of July there will be an international gathering of presbyterian, congregationalist and mainline reformed denominations from around the world. One of the issues on the agenda will be whether the present economic system as it is constituted ought to be rejected as a heresy. Latin American bodies are working for the stronger language while churches in the north are not so keen on the blanket language. But it's an important issue to confront and the result should be of interest.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

This is an update to today's post. Chuck Currie highlights another example of liberal Jews and Christians working together for progressive change, in this case filing a brief against the use of the death penalty for minors in this country.

The Jewish journal Forward picked up on two actions of the Presbyterian's recent nat'l gathering. One was the passage of a resolution which called for a disinvestment campaign from Israel. The other decision was to continue the denominational funding of a messianic jewish congregation. A number of moderate to liberal Jewish voices have also voiced dismay over such actions.
A senior interreligious advisor for the American Jewish Committee called it a "catastrophe". The senior vice president of the liberal Union for Reform Judaism called it "heavey handed". And the Anti Defamation League had this to say: The recent actions of the General Assembly calls into question the efforts of interfaith dialogue between Presbyterians and Jews. 
While there may be disagreement about the best course of action in Israel, targeting Jews for conversion and treating Israel unlike any other nation in the world ought to make us question what the mainline is up to in terms of Jewish-Christian relations.  This partnership has been so central for much of the progressive changes which have occurred over the last 60 years or more, including today's fight for gay and lesbian equality, that a careless disregard for such an alliance ought to be a concern for anyone of a liberal stripe. 
And a United Church of Canada minister recounts his first experience presiding over a same sex marriage. It's a moving account which includes the homily he gave at the ceremony. As he writes: But the one overarching thing I can tell you is that looking into the faces of the couple I saw love.  I saw committment.  I saw exactly the things you would hope/expect to find in a couple wanting to get married.   

Monday, July 19, 2004

Selectsmart is the home of a number of tests which rate you on every subject under the sun. I recently took the ethical philosophy selector which is one of the better ones on the site and received 100% compatibility with Aristotle. Which ethical philosopher are you closest to?
Louie Crew, one of the founders of Integrity, the glbt organization of the Episcopal Church has some thoughts about the future relationship between the church and the Anglican communion, especially with the movement by some on the right which seek the church's expulsion from the communion.
I don't expect TEC ever to leave the Communion on our own initiative unless the terms of remaining become intolerable, such as yielding any part of our jurisdiction.  On the other hand, we will probably participate less and less in the forums where abuse occurs, and collaborate where we are welcome. 

TEC is investing its considerable resources in sharing the stigma of a despised and rejected minority.  That is not new in Christianity:  Jesus experienced his own first successful missions with outcasts in Samaria. It seems that few in the Communion have thought to love. The Episcopal Church.  The test of love is always the same, and always tough:  do we love only when people please us or agree with us?

Anglicans outside TEC who are not saying anything one way or the other right now have a stake if TEC is booted out or even more badlybruised, but they seem not to have awakened to that. If Anglicans elsewhere cannot manifest empathy for TEC, they may find that others won't be around to manifest empathy for them when the neo-Puritans come knocking at their doors
This last point is an important one. A number of Anglican churches around the world have varying degrees of inclusion for gay and lesbians such as Canada, South Africa, Brazil, Scotland, and so on. The right has called for the explusion of the US church, some have also added Canada and so it is a question: what other churches in communion have a membership which is at risk to such forces?

And a number of pastors from central Missouri are speaking out against a state constitutional amendment which would prohibit gay marriage. As one of the pastors noted:  There are Christians who believe that God wants a more inclusive world and includes all those, especially those who have been marginalized and oppressed by our society and by our own faith communities." 


Saturday, July 17, 2004

Today I'm recommending other site's articles.
Simon Says  has a thought provoking piece on what it means to be a liberal Christian. He emphasizes the mystery of God and the fallibility of humans in his account. The only thing I'd add to his description is some reference to what makes makes religious claims normative for religious liberals. The site is worth a read and is being added to my blog links.
Hugoboy hits a key issue in the divisive debates we face: the issue is how those of us who disagree passionately...can agree to have thoughtful, cordial relations with one another. Some might think this is about avoiding conflict. It isn't. It's about avoiding superficial, self-righteous conflicts over terminology that only serve to mask what could be more serious, thoughtful, and productive arguments over issues of policy, humanness, sexuality, faith, and identity.
Philocrites posts a sermon he gave on moral imagination: the ability to see beyond one's own experiences, associates, surroundings and actively take on the concerns, experiences, and needs of the other. It's what one theologian Henry Nelson Wieman called creative interaction and it's the basis for the expansion of our appreciable world. Philocrites identifies it as the central religious task we face.
Republic of T links an astounding story. Seymour Hersh who brought the nation's attention to the torture scandal in Iraqi prisons like Abu Ghraib now claims there are children in these prisons and  they faced much of the same conditions, including torture and sexual assault: Young male prisoners were filmed being sodomised by American soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. The Norwegian government and Amnesty International has called for an investigation and the release of the children from these prisons. But as of yet there is no media coverage of this issue in the US. We were taken down a road in Iraq which is threatening to destroy our nation's soul. 

Thursday, July 15, 2004

I'd be remiss to not mention the fact that a year has passed for this blog. My first post on blogger was July 11th 2003. Sometimes this site seems to suck up too much of my time but other times it provides a great way to respond to the religious issues of the day. So lets see what the next year gives us.
The general secretary of the Church Society in the UK confidently has asserted that the church in Africa will leave the Anglican communion this October over the issue of gay and lesbian inclusion in the church. The timing is in response to the release of a commission's report which has sought to figure out a way to keep the communion together. 
These  conservative religious attitudes may do something more than cause a schism in a church, it's also hampering efforts to deal with the problem of AIDS.
Church leaders stigmatize people living with HIV because it's considered a sinful disease... Church leaders discourage condom use and refuse to allow workers from non-governmental organisations to promote sexual education for youths, fearing it would lead to immoral behaviour. Homosexuality in those countries is considered an even more taboo topic and HIV/Aids outreach to gays is impossible because people do not dare to come out. Countries in regions such as Africa and Asia are meanwhile suffering some of the highest rates of infection or the largest numbers of people infected in the world.
In Australia there's an interesting story of a congregation that on any given weekend will have over 17,000 folks attending services. It's the mega church phenomena but according to this report it has some political ramifications. The pastor of this particular church called Hillsong has written an aptly titled book "You Need More Money".
Hillsong says that if you come to Jesus, then Jesus offers you, in fact promises you, that you will have a prosperous life, you'll be healthy, you'll be wealthy, your marriage will flourish, you'll have a good sex life, your business will flourish and you will be a prosperous winner in this society
It probably wouldn't be surprising to find out that a number of right of center politicians are seeking to court church members of this mega church and the emerging evangelical movement in Australia. What's interesting is how this religion is marketed. It fits so well with the things which modern society values: money, health, sex. Jesus in this gospel addresses everything that the self help market works on but you get the bonus of stadium shows and rock music.
But of course it is the struggling mainline protestant churches, like the Uniting Church which are the ones who follow popular culture, we're told, when they include gay and lesbians in the church. While the growing mega churches can counsel us on how we need wealth and a good sex life the mainline churches seem to be following a different course:
The mainline churches are more problematic. The mainline churches ask questions about refugee policy, about welfare policy and, see, the Howard Government has a very troubled relationship with people who question or argue about the justice or equity of what's happening in Australia.   

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Some good news in New York where a judge threw out the case against the two Unitarian ministers who were charged with signing marriage licenses for 13 gay and lesbian couples. This is one issue which has not received much attention: what is the affect of the flurry of legislation targeting same sex unions on religious communities who have a different view on the matter?

The blog Ecumenical Insanity goes after mainline denominations who are resorting to television ads to attract members. In particular the United Church of Christ's campaign bothers him since the theme of the ads are: we're open and accepting. There's two complaints. Openess is a cover for saying that we require nothing, we have no standards, no requirements. Of course this assumes that openess is itself not a principle of sorts and that it is not a good in it's own right. I don't think the UCC shares this assumption.

But since ecumenial insanity does, he goes on to suggest that no one could be attracted by such a campaign and therefore it is simply a political statement. It is increasingly the case in UCC congregations that many of their members are refugees from conservative churches. Many gay and lesbians become attracted to such a denomination because it's their first religious home were they are not condemned. An example of this movement can be found in this piece about a UCC congregation in Virginia.

Given how Christianity has largely been cast in the public arena as right-wing, anti-gay, and the like when the UCC has a campaign presenting a different vision of the church, it might be seen as "political" but it is also evangelism. It is good news for many people who have been pushed away from Christianity and figured that they had no possible home within this faith tradition.

And in the good works department: over 1000 clergy from over 30 denominations have signed a letter in opposition to the federal marriage amendment. The letter was organized by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. If you are a member of the clergy and are interested in signing on to this letter visit this site to do so.

Monday, July 12, 2004

I'm currently listening to the debate in the US senate over the federal marriage amendment. If you'd like to express your opposition , call your elected official and get involved. The sort of claims being raised in this debate on both sides are disapointing.

Democrats are hiding behind the rubric of states rights and thus failing to address the fundamental injustice of the federal marriage amendment. And Republicans are addressing the importance of families and children, which is not arguable but they somehow make the jump from this to fighting gay marriage. As if gay and lesbian families do not have children. And if they do they don't count.

And as if their families don't engage in the same functions that other families do which any society ought to value. The phrase traditional marriage avoids what ought to be valued: healthy, committed, stable relationships which develop the growth and possibilities of human life.

In other news: the Australian Anglican Church is considering legislation which would pave the way for women bishops. In the UK the Anglican Church defeated a measure which would institute heresy courts. And Ron Reagan will be speaking at the democrat's nat'l convention on the importance of stem cell research. It is a sad commentary on our society that such research has become a partisan issue.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Here's some news items which caught my eye:

Richard Malone, the Catholic bishop from Maine has spoken out against the witholding of communion as a means to punish certain classes of people. The open table which Malone practices will likely generate little media interest even if it is the most faithful response to the Gospel.

Paul Weyrich, a conservative activist, has sought to reassure evangelicals that when Bush separates Islam from terrorism and praises the religion it's nothing but a big smokescrean. Weyrich argues that Bush understand this is a war against Islam but because of politics he cannot let his true views out. If this is the case, there is no way Bush could engage the middle east in a manner which could make the world safer.

And Bush decided to use some lousy arguments for the federal marriage amendment in his weekly radio address. He argued that marriage would be cut off from the past if it was changed to include gay and lesbians. I don't see why though. Change assumes a modification of the past not a removal of it. The civil rights movement, for example, affected change in our country, producing something new while at the same time bringing out the resources of the past to further that change and provide meaning to it.

Bush then proceeded to list important functions which families perform, all of which most anyone could agree with. But he never provides us a basis for believing that gay and lesbian families cannot perform these same functions. Bush then argued against cutting marriage off from it's religious foundations. But what of those religious movements which sanction such marriages? How do they figure into this claim? Most likely it's not figured into it at all.

But there will be such a union of religion and marriage at Harvard's Memorial Chapel when Diane Eck, a Harvard professor of comparative religion will be marrying Dorothy Austin, an Episcopalian priest this month. Ellen Goodman has a column on this union. Some thoughts about religion from these two women are shared in this piece which need to be heard in today's religious climate since they are rooted in a vision of a religion which can "build connections" and which can overcome the divisions which are tearing this country and world apart. It's worth a read.

Friday, July 09, 2004

I've been thinking of Mandeville's Parable of the Bees which was penned in the 1700s. The lesson of the story was that unbridled self interest left free to pursue it's ends is all a society needs to organize itself. Modern conservatism has come to embrace this view, at least in terms of the distribution of goods in society.

Evidence of this can be seen with Hillary Clinton's recent comments about a common good. Her comments were met with shock, disbelief and charges of communism, by those on the right. If conservatives can't talk about a common good then how can they relate to the Christian and western moral traditions? Upon what basis can they talk about values?

The World Parliament of Religions is meeting in Barcelona, Spain. Over 6,500 folks representing a broad range of religions have come together to address some pressing problems from religious violence to third world debt. This sort of interfaith work is important work given the nature of the issues we face today.

An additional reason to not vote for Bush was provided by more than 4,000 scientists, including 48 Nobel Prize winners and 127 members of the National Academy of Sciences who accuse the Bush administration of distorting and suppressing science to suit its political goals. It's an issue which merits attention during this campaign seaon.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Suffice it to say that I'm admire the choice of John Edwards as a running mate. His speech on the two americas was one of the more moving campaign moments during the primary and spoke to the heart of what sort of country we can be.

The day of this decision, Kerry was visiting the African Methodist Episcopal Church's convention in Indianapolis. That convention ended up making history when it selected it's first woman leader, Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie.

And the Presbyterian Church's assembly approved a resolution which described the U.S. invasion of Iraq as "unwise, immoral and illegal" and has condemned "in the strongest possible terms" the torture and abuse of prisoners by the U.S. military there. In the religion debates which will be a part of this election, actions like that of the PCUSA should be a voice which is heard.

Monday, July 05, 2004

I thought for the 4th of July weekend I'd post some excerpts from a speech John Dewey gave in 1939 which was titled Creative Democracy: The Task Before Us:

I am inclined to believe that the heart and final guarantee of democracy is in free gatherings of neighbors on the street corner to discuss back and forth what is read in uncensored news of the day, and in gatherings of friends in the living rooms of houses and apartments to converse freely with one another.

Intolerance, abuse, calling of names because of differences of opinion about religion or politics or business, as well as because of differences of race, color, wealth or degree of culture are treason to the democratic way of life. For everything which bars freedom and fullness of communication sets up barriers that divide human beings into sets and cliques, into antagonistic sects and factions, and thereby undermines the democratic way of life.

Merely legal guarantees of the civil liberties of free belief, free expression, free assembly are of little avail if in daily life freedom of communication, the give and take of ideas, facts, experiences, is choked by mutual suspicion, by abuse, by fear and hatred. These things destroy the essential condition of the democratic way of living even more effectually than open coercion.

To take as far as possible every conflict which arises-and they are bound to arise-out of the atmosphere and medium of force, of violence as a means of settlement into that of discussion and of intelligence is to treat those who disagree- even profoundly-with us as those from whom we may learn, and in so far, as friends.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

A lot of mas been made of the polls showing religious voters favoring Bush over Kerry by almost 2 to 1. But is this an appropriate way to protray this issue? Kerry doesn't seem to have much of a problem attracting certain religious voters. Kerry has the support of 3 out of 4 Jewish voters. Among Muslims, 54% favor Kerry and only 3% support Bush. Among non-christian religions as whole, 3 to 1 support Kerry over Bush. The Catholic vote appears split down the middle.

So it would be more accurate to say that Kerry has a protestant problem then a religion problem. Of course given the number of protestants in this country, this is a real issue which needs to be addressed by the campaign. But the answer will probably look different if it's understood that Kerry attracts certain religious folks and not others then when it's protrayed as a secular/religious divide.

And in a heart breaking vote, the Presbyterian's assembly voted to retain the ban on gay and lesbian ordination. In terms of opposition to discrimination in the civil area this assembly was more then I had ever expected. But the church ban, which has turned away too many good people, some of whom I consider as theological mentors, from ordained ministry is a scar on the church and a tragedy.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

This is a photo of a 1977 christmas church program that I participated in. I'm in the back row, second from the left. I thought I'd post it, for fun, but also in response to a common assertion one finds on the right. The claim is that the mainline protestant churches have no center, they simply exist in reaction to conservative or "orthodox" forms of Christianity.

As someone who has spent my entire life in the mainline church, I find the right's claim to be without basis. I grew up in a church with a definite religious vision, a gospel. It found expression in the very life of the church, from my youth group, to community work, to the selling of pies at the local fair. It was a gospel rooted in certain vision of community and God's love for us. That experience continues to inform my faith today.

Now certainly there are a number of folks who are fleeing conservative churches and are seeking more open places to work out their faith. This is something to be celebrated, though often the right would rather they left the faith altogether then find a church home that allows for such openness. My Irony recently wrote a thought provoking piece on the experience of leaving fundamentalism and some of the issues which can mark such a journey. It's worth a read.

But I'd propose an idea that some may have not considered before. Perhaps there is something attractive, for many members whether new or old, about the religious life and vision of the mainline church. It may be why I remain in the church and why others leave behind conservative churches and join more liberal religious bodies. Certainly the membership numbers favor the right, but some of us are left out of the picture when those numbers are trotted out.

Friday, July 02, 2004

I mentioned yesterday several committee recommendations to the Presbyterian's general assembly. Now a number of votes have been taken by the assembly in response to these issues. The assembly voted to explore the possibility of providing same sex benefits to church employees. They voted to express opposition to Virginia's new law which prohibited "contractual rights between same-sex partners". And the assembly also expressed support for civil unions.

These are the sort of votes that should be a part of the national debate when it comes to religion and cultural issues. The religion versus secular divide is an overplayed theme which fails to capture the diversity of responses that people of faith have to many of these issues. While there was a lot to cheer concering the Presbyterian's assembly a cautionary note is needed. The assembly voted to not endorse the federal marriage amendment. But they also explicitly, unlike the Unitarians, voted not to oppose or put resources in seeking the defeat of the amendment. Also it will be worth watching what happens to the issue of gay and lesbian ordination which should be voted on today.

And two stories from different ends of the spectrum should be of concern to all. Hugoboy has linked an article on the efforts to monitor churches. A group called the mainstream coalition in Kansas has recruited 100 volunteers to attend services "in Johnson County to look for overt election-year politicking from the pulpit, which could violate federal law." Spies in the church? Sermons being monitored? Has a line been crossed?

From the other end we have the Bush campaign proposing some extrordinary tactics to get church members involved or in contact with the campaign, including efforts to have church member directories turned over to the Bush campaign. Also folks are encouraged to attend particular groups within the church to make a pitch for Bush. The plan was so intrusive of local congregations that even the Southern Baptist's commission on public affairs expressed outraged. As Richard Land of the commission said "I would not want my church directories being used that way".

Thanks to Chuck Currie for the info on the Bush campaign efforts. Also he was able to land an interview with the head of the National Council of Churches, Rev. Robert Edgar. The efforts of the NCC to connect faith and the issues and problems we face today are strikingly different from those who would seek to prevent any involvement and those who want to make the church a subsidiary of a presidential campaign. The interview is well worth a read.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

To update my post on the general direction of the Presbyterian's gathering in Virginia this week I came across several other news items I thought I'd send along. A number of commissions have made recommendations to the General Assembly.

They have recommended that support should not be given to the federal marriage amendment. They have recommended opposition to Virginia's new law which takes affect today which "will ban any partnership contract or other arrangement between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage." Regulation of individual contracts? The measure was so extreme that even the governor of the state opposed it.

And commissioners have recommend the exploration into the possibilities of providing same sex benefits for church employees. That would certainly place the church ahead of our government on this issue. Now the real test will come with the upcoming votes in the general assembly. Will they side with such recommendations?

Apparently blogstudio is undergoing a number of major difficulties which has made doing anything on my site impossible. So I've made a decision to move my blog back to blogger, where I first started this enterprise.

I've noticed that many of my posts are of a pessimistic nature. And keeping with such a posture I had little expectations over what might be accomplished at the Presbyterian's national gathering. But so far there has been a number of positive developments coming forth which have surprised me. Apparently my sense of where the denomination is at is off, which is a good thing.

The general assembly started off by selecting a new moderator who favors gay and lesbian inclusion in the church and who has a history of peace activism. Then a church commission has recommended to the general assembly the scrapping of what is known as an "authoritative interpetation" of the church's constitution which forbids the ordination of active gays and lesbians. It is up to the general assembly whether to accept or reject such recommendations. But this is setting up to be a very different gathering then the United Methodists who with vote after vote sought to exclude gays and lesbians from the life of the church.