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.

Monday, October 31, 2005

The highest court in the United Methodist Church delivered two rulings. One re-defrocked Beth Stroud based on the ban on "self avowed, practicing homosexuals" in the ordained clergy. They also ruled that a Methodist minister was free to throw gay and lesbians out of his church. It's hard to see what is consistent in the use of their Book of Discipline, outside of the message that gay and lesbians are not welcome in the United Methodist Church.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

This is meant to be taken as a short reflection on what kind of monotheism might do the sort of work required in our age. Some features of such monotheism would:

1. Relativize us. That is, monotheism should confront us with our finitude and the limits of our judgments, perspectives. If God is simply taken as an absolutizer of our beliefs, God becomes redundant, since for all practical purposes we've counted ourselves or at least our views as divine.

2. Humanize us. Monotheism in this account is not a concept concerning the existence of some being as much as it is a recognition that there is something not us which works for the good, by which we can be saved, transformed, moved to the better in life if we co-operate with such a reality.

The first might be seen as salvation by grace apart from works of the law where our works are as dirty rags. And the second could be the call for perfection, a call to participate in the building of the kingdom of God. Neither contradicts each other though my hunch is that for those of us involved in politics the second is more readily accepted than the first.

But a problem emerges if either claim is forgotten. If we believe that the salvation of the world is only up to us, than when we lack power (such as the left today) we are tempted to despair. And if we have power (such as the right today) we are tempted with arrogance. If we simply go with the first idea we get acquiescence.

Both claims are needed in that while we recognize our responsibility to the better at the same time it is not solely up to us to make this happen but we work with a reality larger than any of us. But with the limits of our work we trust/hope that it adds to the movement whereby this reality seeks to find expression in this world and in the world to come.

Friday, October 28, 2005

The pressure against those who dissent in the Catholic church continues. The "Rev. Ed Cachia was fired as pastor of St. Michael's Parish in Cobourg, east of Toronto, after he wrote an article in the Cobourg Daily Star urging his church to admit women to the priesthood." And a church cantor and organist were fired after they protested their priests working to get signatures for the anti-gay marriage ballot measure in Massachusetts.

In the Methodist Church, Beth Stroud faces the verdict of the Church Judicial Council in Houston over whether she can keep her ordination despite her sexual orientation. Her case was previously overturned in PA but was appealed to the highest church body. I wanted to apologize for my abscence. I went to NJ last weekend and midterms kept me busy. I'm hoping to have others contribute to this site for diversity of views and a regularity in postings.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Swedish Lutheran Church is moving to bless same sex unions. It's been approved by the church's liturgical commission and will be considered by the church assembly this month. While the Sydney Anglican Church is changing its constitution, much like Nigeria did, in preparation for a possible split with the Church of England.

After a popular liberal Catholic priest was recently removed in the Boston area, a number of encouraging stories have followed. Such as how mainline protestants and the jewish community have rallied behind this priest. Or the active role parishoners have taken in response to this action, something that is going to be needed in this particular age of reaction in the church.

A religious right group is urging congress to investigate the ACLU, both its activities and its "true intentions. Sadly, I've been unable to find any religious right group which has condemned or responded to the issue of torture. It was the ACLU which secured the release of information pointing to and fighting such practices. So it's the ACLU, not the religious right which has acted to defend some of this country's highest ideals.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

"George Bush has claimed he was on a mission from God when he launched the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, according to a senior Palestinian politician in an interview to be broadcast by the BBC later this month." This passage from Reinhold Niebuhr's work The Nature and Destiny of Man seems relevant:

Man is ignorant and involved in the limitations of a finite mind; but he pretends that he is not limited. He assumes that he can gradually transcend finite limitations until his mind becomes identical with universal mind. All of his intellectual and cultural pursuits, therefore, become infected with the sin of pride.

The Bible defines sin in both religious and moral terms. The religious dimension of sin is man's rebellion against God, his effort to usurp the place of God. The moral and social dimension of sin is injustice. The ego which falsely makes itself the center of existence in its pride inevitably subordinates other life to its will and thus does injustice to other life.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The recent earthquake which hit northern Pakistan and India has had catastophic results, with over 20,000 people dead and countless numbers of people injured and in need of aid. The Church World Service, which has done relief efforts in Pakistan for 25 years, has been of the key groups responding to the situation. To make a donation to that effort click here.

"The entire lay leadership of the Anglican church in Baghdad has been missing for two weeks and was believed killed while driving from Jordan to Baghdad through the country's insurgent-infested Anbar province, a senior church official said." This is rather devastating for the Anglican Church in Iraq and underscores the worries that Christians face in that country today.

Amnesty International has recently set up a blog to focus on the issue of torture within US facilities around the world under the auspices of the war on terror. It's a difficult subject to digest sometimes, but the only way these practices can end is if they are brought to light and those who instituted such brutalities are held accountable.

John Bolton representing the US at the UN, joined China and Algeria in blocking Juan Mendez, Kofi Annan's adviser for the prevention of genocide, "from briefing the council on his recent visit to Darfur, despite pleas from Annan and 11 other council members that Mendez be heard." And with Bush blocking an Int'l Tribunal to try war crimes in the region, it's hard to see how this administration takes what is happening in Sudan seriously.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

I came across a statement from the Anabaptist Network in the UK. It's a creed of sorts but instead of a list of doctrinal concerns much of the emphasis is focused on the problems of human life and the ways in which the Christian tradition might be brought to bear on these problems. There is something refreshing about such an approach. Here's some excerpts:

Western culture is slowly emerging from the Christendom era when church and state jointly presided over a society in which almost all were assumed to be Christian. Whatever its positive contributions on values and institutions, Christendom seriously distorted the gospel, marginalised Jesus, and has left the churches ill-equipped for mission in a post-Christendom culture.

As we reflect on this, we are committed to learning from the experience and perspectives of movements such as Anabaptism that rejected standard Christendom assumptions and pursued alternative ways of thinking and behaving.

The frequent association of the church with status, wealth and force is inappropriate for followers of Jesus and damages our witness. We are committed to exploring ways of being good news to the poor, powerless and persecuted.

Churches are called to be committed communities of discipleship and mission, places of friendship, mutual accountability and multi-voiced worship that sustain hope as we seek God’s kingdom together. We are committed to nurturing and developing such churches, in which young and old are valued, leadership is consultative, roles are related to gifts rather than gender and baptism is for believers.

Spirituality and economics are inter-connected. In an individualist and consumerist culture and in a world where economic injustice is rife, we are committed to finding ways of living simply, sharing generously, caring for creation, and working for justice.

Peace is at the heart of the gospel. As followers of Jesus in a divided and violent world, we are committed to finding non-violent alternatives and to learning how to make peace between individuals, within and among churches, in society, and between nations.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Rowan Williams is trying to hold the Anglican Communion together. This is a central mission for Christians if we take John 17:21 seriously, that all may be one. But this does not mean that it will always be successful or that any route works. It has to begin with a few starting points. There needs to be a dialogue, and this dialogue has to be built on the supposition that the other has something to inform us of God and God's workings in the world.

And because the other has something which can inform us, we are ready and able to have our views mutually transformed in the encounter. But if either sides thinks of the other as non Christian, totally separate from God, then there's no reason to talk. The only routes become conquering the other side or splitting. Since the first option is not possible in the Church of England and the Anglican Communion, the latter option seems to be the likely route.

There are of course half measures and piece meal compromises. William's recent decision to not be at the consecration of women bishops is such a measure. But like any such measure it is rightly met with scorn on both sides of the fence. Allowing gay clergy to marry but require celibacy is another such measure. Instead of support, Williams receives threats of schism from Akinola in Nigeria and bewilderment by liberals at home.

Until there's mutual dialogue and a desire to see what God is up to in the other, William's half measures, will do nothing to slow down, may even hasten the breakup of the communion. Some rejoice in that. But if the church can't demonstrate what loving community and the spirit of reconciliation looks like to the wider world, I have hard time thinking that we are in a position to present Christian faith as some model or resource in our world today.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

I've been lax in posting and still trying to find a satisfactory pace or rhythm for this site. But a number of other sites have some thoughtful reflections on the ongoings of the church. Philocrites has a piece on the Catholic Church's attempts to remove and punish liberal priests in the church, with two examples in Massachusetts. Propaganda Box has a piece on the impossible situation that gay and lesbians have been put into by the church.

I also wanted to highlight some good articles and sites. Street Prophets, a spin off from Daily Kos, is a community based blog which is rooted in the intersection of faith and progressive politics. Sarah Laughed, a blog with reflections on the lectionary from an episcopalian perspective is a great resource. The Gay Restorationist, an effort to engage restorationist protestant thought along progressive lines is a good read.

To follow up my last post on the death of the stray kitten; there is some good news in that awful situation. We were able to get a hold of both the sibling and the mom and we found homes for them where they can be cared for and treated well. Also been trying to find a home for a third cat which makes me think that me and my friends are becoming an animal adoption service.

And for encouraging news. In New Jersey, pastors and clerics from a range of religious traditions have been calling for gay marriage. Canadian Anglicans re-affirm support for the inclusion of gays in the church. Conservative and Liberal Methodist women's groups actually met to talk, share their views. I'm not sure if this one meeting will open further discussion but treating each other as actual Christians who happen to disagree is the first step.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Another letter to the editor, this time for my school newspaper: Between 7pm and 10pm Friday night, somebody, maybe having a bit of "fun", decided to brutally smash in the head and the abdomen of a small black kitten, thereby killing it. This happened in front of my house, which isn't surprising because this kitten lived there and was cared for by myself and my neighbor since soon after it was born.

It never deserved to meet such a fate. And it doesn't speak well for this town that I saw a number of college age students pass by laughing at the sight of its mangled body. For those who care for outdoor cats, be careful and aware that some would do such animals harm. For those who want to make a difference report animal cruelty, never abandon an animal, and foster the kind of respect that such lives require.