Monday, November 13, 2017

Standing in the Need of Prayer

I love the old hymn lyrics: “It’s me, it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.” I happen to be someone who needs (and relies on) the power of prayer.

Skeptics (who can usually count me one of their own, but to their annoyance I also embrace mysticism, optimism, and recurring bouts of faith) will ask me if I really believe that prayer works. My experience is, as they say in 12 step programs, “It works if you work it.” That doesn’t mean that every wish is magically granted or that every difficulty instantly goes away. But lots of overlapping realities make getting support problematic (for me) sometimes. Maybe I don’t know how to ask or maybe I don’t know who to ask, but many times seeking encouragement from a friend (or acquaintance, colleague, or even professional listener of some sort) has left me feeling as lonely or anxious or defeated as if I had never sought it at all. BUT...whenever I have prayed, “Help!” to the seeming nothingness around me, I have almost always found relief. Maybe I am able to rest. Maybe a fresh idea comes to mind. Maybe I see things from a broader and brighter perspective. Maybe I find new resolve. Maybe I just accept that I can’t do much about the problem in that moment and that kind of surrender can lead to peace or at least temporary relief. Once in a while, a miracle (a dramatic change of perception) shows up!

I’ve asked people for  support...sometimes I got it in abundance, other times I got a little and what I got came begrudgingly, still other times I got squat, but when I have asked the god of my ever evolving understanding and experience for support, I have received it. Did the support come from God, my higher Self, my subconscious mind, or are they all the same Thing (or all parts of the same Thing)? I don’t much care. What I know is that prayer has offered relief that didn’t seem to come from anywhere else. 

I think if I were an atheist I would be a praying atheist. My experience of prayer is that encouraging. So, if it’s all the same to you, I’ll keep praying. I may not do it the way you do, I may understand the mechanics of prayer differently than you do, but I have come to depend on and be profoundly grateful for moments of prayer. And, as a side note, I find some of the most cathartic prayer experiences happen in the middle of the night, but really, I think any time is a good time for prayer.  

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Read the Bible, eh?

A woman in Tennessee said on social media today that all “sins” are equal, and went on to say “homosexuality is the same as murder” at the sin level. I challenged the assumption that love or even attraction could in any way compare to murder. She responded by telling me to read the Bible. My response was probably overly thorough; nevertheless, here is what I said to her:

Where should I start in the bible? Perhaps 1 Timothy 2.12 that says that you as a woman have no business trying to instruct me, a man. Of course, that is the sexism of the culture and times and not a mandate from God, so let's move on.

Should I read the creation myth that has humanity created out of nothingness, or the myth (one page later) that says men were created from dirt and women were created a week later from the man's rib? They can't both be literally factual (neither of them is). Should I read where Cain and Abel took wives (but only their parents had been "created" so far in the tale)? Where'd the wives come from?!! Was God pulling off another creation nearby? Did they hook up with some unmentioned sisters (ick)? Should I read the version that says that Eve was created from Adam, which defies the gender binaries the Christian fundamentalists lift up as sacrosanct.

Perhaps I should read the Sodom and Gomorrah story...a story about angels narrowly escapinig gang rape (which of course is a bad thing but has nothing to do with mutual love or attraction) and continue reading to find Lot (the supposed hero of the story) having incest with his daughters in a cave. Maybe that's not a good story to use for ethical or honorable behavior. 

Maybe I should read about Jephthah who murdered his own daughter because he promised God a human sacrifice. 

Should I read in Ezekiel about a woman's lovers having donkey sized genitals and horse powered emissions? (That's hot, but doesn't support your case). 

Perhaps Ephesians 6.5 ("slaves obey your masters") is a part of the bible you'd recommend (moving on, I'm afraid you wouldn't find anything wrong with that one!). 

What about Deuteronomy 22.28-29 that would force a female victim to marry her rapist? 

Perhaps I should read about the patriarchs like David (who was in love with Jonathan long before he raped Bathsheba and murdered her the way, his covenantal relationship with Jonathan isn’t the problematic part of his story!), or Solomon with his hundreds of wives and concubines, or Abraham who exploited (to put it mildly) and then abandoned Hagar and their child, but since he sold his wife to a King and was willing to murder his only child, his character was always a bit sketchy. 

You see, I am familiar with the texts, familiar enough to know that same-gender love and mutual attraction are never condemned in scripture (and, even if they were, we'd still have to explore the issue). Rape and exploitation (i.e. Temple prostitution) are condemned (obvs), but love never is. In fact, even Paul (whose condemnation of idolatry in Romans 1 is misused to torment gay people) said that love fulfills the law! Maybe YOU should read the bible, and question it, and wrestle with it, and ask questions of it and about it...and stop using it as a crutch to support your prejudices and superstitions.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Why is 45 Stirring Up “Merry Xmas” BS in October?

If we’re going to be a Xian Theocracy, let’s do it properly. I’m going to insist that ppl wish me a Holy Advent, a Glorious Epiphany, a Meaningful Lent, a Joyful Easter, an Uplifting Ascension, a Powerful Pentecost, and a Righteous Reign of Christ Sunday. If its about “xian values”...Xianity is more than Xmas!

Also, Christmas is Dec 25-Jan 5. It offends Baby Jesus if you wish me a Merry Xmas too early, and it breaks his heavenly heart if you forget to wish me xmas blessings on Dec 26, 27, 28, etc. So, do follow the Christmastide precisely, won’t you?

Onerous? Silly? Fine. Then let’s forget it and let those who wish to do so offer the polite and inclusive “Happy Holidays”...And while we’re at it, let’s NOT be a xian theocracy or any other kind of theocracy...they tend to be oppressive. 


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Athletes Kneeling During Anthem is Really Not about the Flag

Here’s a thought: instead of worshiping the flag, let’s honor the constitution that guarantees freedom of political speech (even at ball games). Instead of insisting people stand for a song (which is not in the constitution) let’s try to listen to the people who are going to such great lengths and taking personal risks to get us to understand and care about the injustices suffered by people of color in this country. Instead of demonizing those who are taking a stand (or a knee as it were) in protest of police brutality, maybe we could hear them and join them in addressing systemic racism in this country. Demonizing Black athletes for reminding us of racism is part of the racist system they are addressing. If you defended the confederate flag and statues (symbols of treason) then your issue isn’t with the flag, its with people of color claiming their agency and using their notoriety to influence change. Red, white, and blue are not the colors that have you worked up. 

Friday, October 06, 2017

Happy Brthday MCC

Oct. 6, 1968: a young, gay, defrocked, Pentecostal minister (Troy D. Perry) held a worship service in his living room. 12 people showed up (a powerful symbol). The coffee table became the communion table/altar. An album of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir provided the service music (adding a bit of camp and irony to the momentous occasion). Gay and straight, male and female, Christian and Jew were some of the labels of the people in the room. More than 9 months before Stonewall, this worship experience meant to welcome and affirm and celebrate LGBTQ people (known by various terms over the years) occurred and launched an ecumenical, body positive, sex positive, LGBTQ affirming, joyous, justice seeking, ridiculously optimistic, evangelical (and sometimes charismatic), Eucharistic, over time theologically progressive (which only makes sense as it began by challenging old assumptions) religious movement known as Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC).

MCC is not the powerhouse it once was, but it’s still around, and many churches are now welcoming and affirming of LGBTQ folk and their allies and loved ones.  But before they got there, MCC was doing the work. 
MCC’s early, provocative, and courageous witness led the way for mainstream churches to become more accepting and appreciative of the Queer children of God. MCC was also a leader in the inclusive language movement and was way ahead of most churches in compassionately responding to the AIDS crisis. 

Whatever becomes of MCC, the world will always be better because Troy Perry started a movement that said the LGBTQ members of the human family were part of the divine diversity of creation and were fully embraced and loved by God, and that movement helped change hearts and minds and bring hope and healing to countless lives. 

Many of us in ministry today are in ministry because of MCC. When we didn’t have other options, MCC was an option. MCC blessed our unions, performed our funerals, visited us in hospitals, debated the fundamentalists, spoke to city councils and state legislatures, and prepared and ordained us for ministry. In time, for a variety of reasons, some of us left MCC for other communities, some of us embraced dual or even triple affiliations, remaining in MCC but not exclusively. But wherever we ended up, we know MCC gave us our start, and for that, let us always be grateful. 

49 years ago, a prophet was raised up, and he spoke the word of God’s all-inclusive and unconditional love, and the Church and the world would never be the same again. God bless you Troy Perry!

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

New Thought Anglican and More

Intersections: New Thought, Anglicanism, and Other Traditions 
Sunshine Cathedral (Fort Lauderdale) 
By Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

People often refer to Sunshine Cathedral as a hybrid. They will say the message is “therapeutic”, the atmosphere is “loving”, the mission is to facilitate positive change in the world, and the liturgy is “uplifting.” Perhaps those realities are reflected in Sunshine Cathedral’s affirmation: “Sunshine Cathedral is a different kind of church where the past is past and the future has infinite possibilities.”

Some will say Sunshine Cathedral is New Thought Anglican, some will say it’s Science of Mind meets Methodism. Some call it a Positive Thinking church, others High Church Universalist, still others will say it is New Thought with Ritual and evangelical passion. Some will call it Catholic Light and Liberal. One leader in the congregation has said, “If the Episcopal Church and the Unity Church had a baby, it would be the Sunshine Cathedral.” Another lay leader calls SC the “happy Church.”

Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox, Pentecostals, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Humanists, 12 Steppers, and even a Wiccan or two have all found a home at Sunshine Cathedral, and people from many traditions have mentioned there is a moment in almost every service that reminds them of their former traditions while offering a new experience as well.

I am the Senior Minister of Sunshine Cathedral and I bring a blended/hybrid background and worldview to my role. A confirmed Episcopalian, certified Reiki Master, and Kriya Yoga initiate with seminary degrees from Protestant seminaries (Union Theological Seminary and the Episcopal Divinity School), I am also ordained in Metropolitan Community Churches (founded by an ex-Pentecostal minister, Troy Perry); I am ordained as an independent/Old Catholic priest (by my SC pastoral predecessor, Pentecostal minister/Old Catholic Bishop/MCCer/New Thoughter Rt. Rev. Grant Lynn Ford), and I am an ordained Divine Science minister (Divine Science, a New Thought philosophy, was founded by Quaker Malinda Cramer and almost simultaneously by Presbyterian Nona Brooks). Between my predecessor (Bishop Ford) and me, Sunshine Cathedral has been led for 33 years by Liturgical New Thoughters! No wonder there are so many different experiences of our wonderful Cathedral!

We are a “different kind of church.” Our spirituality is “progressive, positive, and practical.”

It turns out that our New Thought/Anglican/Ecumenical style is not without precedent (though surely our presentation of it is somewhat unique).
Divine Science minister W. John Murray was a Catholic priest before becoming a Divine Scientist.
David Alkins was an Episcopal priest who became the dean of Brooks Divinity School (a Divine Science ministerial school).
F. Bernadette Turner was a psychologist and an Episcopalian who became a Divine Science minister and then later in life was ordained a Deacon and Priest in the Episcopal Church.
Unity co-founder Myrtle Fillmore had a parent who was Episcopalian.
Healer Agnes Sanford was the daughter of Presbyterian missionaries who married an Episcopal priest. Her theology, prayer techniques, and healing methods were very compatible with (often indistinguishable from) New Thought; she also experienced glossalia (praying in tongues)...she has been claimed by Protestants, Charismatics, and New Thoughters!
Divine Scientist Emmet Fox grew up Catholic.
Jospeh Murphy was a psychologist and a Catholic priest before becoming a Religious Science and a Divine Science minister.
Mystic Emanuel Swedenborg was a Lutheran whose allegorical interpretation of scripture still influences New Thought Christians.
Religious Science founder Ernest Holmes was a Congregationalist (his brother was a Congregationalist minister) before studying Christian Science, getting ordained in Divine Science, and starting the Religious Science/Science of Mind movement.
Church of Truth founder Albert Grier was a Universalist minister for decades before embracing New Thought.
Norman Vincent Peale was a Methodist turned Dutch Reformed minister who embraced and taught many of the New Thought principles extolled by Ernest Holmes, Emmet Fox, and the Fillmores.

The openness, the freedom to investigate and experiment, the personal connection to mystery and wonder, the self-empowerment and optimism, and the bonds of a community devoted to both mind and heart, thinking and feeling, liberation and love is what a mixture of the mainline traditions and “new thought” can offer. Indeed, it is what one is likely to find at Sunshine Cathedral.

An article explaining the relatedness of New Thought and Anglican spiritualities was written in 2003 (see below) by Educational Psychologist Deb Whitehouse (who was married to an Academic Philosopher and New Thought practitioner/scholar Alan Anderson). Whitehouse was an Episcopalian who found her way to New Thought. When reading her historical perspective, Sunshine Cathedral will make even more sense to those who call it their spiritual home.

(To read Whitehouse’s article “New Thought and the Anglican Tradition” Click HERE)

His Fans Like Him, His Detractors Do Not, but Trump is No Victim

People get to like, respect, agree with, admire, worship, and/or wish to emulate the 45th POTUS (I currently do none of those things but am open to future, joyful surprises). What people DO NOT get to do is say that people's mistrust of him or response to his antics are unfair or unprecidented. We are no where near the point of questioning his citizenship, which a previous president had to endure.

And, even if one were to dig him deeply, that same one must surely understand why feminists, same-gender loving people, transgender/gender queer/two spirit/nonbinary folk, Latinx, Muslim, people whose lives depend on having access to health insurance, environmentalists, people who fear he colluded with a foreign power, and people terrified of the possibility of nuclear war would perhaps not share that admiration of him.

I will say, the last two presidents have shared one thing in common - both have been suspected of practiciing religions which they do not...Islam (44) and Christianity (45), respectively. 45 was Baptized into a Protestant tradition (but then, so was his predecessor); however, to claim a kinship with the evangelical right is politically expedient for him but has not been the witness of his life (or speech) lo these last 7 decades.

In any case, people are entitled to like him (we tend to like the people who reflect who we are or who reflect the sort of person we wish to be), but they are not entitled to paint him in any way as a victim. Without experience, relevant preparation, or even the majority of the popular vote he became the most powerful man in the world. He arguably may have victims, but he is in no way or by any credible definition a victim himself.