Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Christ Nature

"All beings are by nature Buddha, as ice by nature is water. Apart from water there is no ice; apart from beings, no Buddha." - Hakuin Zenji

Buddha nature, we are told, is universal. Buddha is not limited to one great person in history. Buddha is not a single wise teacher from the East. Sidhartha whom we call the Buddha was one who "woke up" to realize his Buddha Nature. By doing this he became an example to follow, a demonstration of what being fully human and totally alive really means. And so, followers of the Buddha's wisdom are trying to wake up to their own Buddha nature.

This is exactly my understanding of "Christ." Christ for me is not a person but a principle, a principle that was demonstrated by a Galilean prophet named Jesus. By following Jesus' wisdom I am trying to demonstrate the Christ principle within me. Christ wasn't Jesus' last name, it is a universal principle that Jesus lived out. He became Christ, or, we could say he demonstrated his innate Christ Nature. Followers of Jesus will also become, to some degree, Christ; or, we could say followers of Jesus are trying to demonstrate their Christ Nature, the Christ within.

As a Christian I can affirm, All beings are by nature Christ, as ice by nature is water... Jesus got there before us, but to serve as the example, not the exception.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


All that is. All that was. All that will ever be. Highest ideals. Profound aspiration. Indomitable hope. Energy of life. Beauty. Peace. Unconditional love.
Creativity. Infinite possibilities. Wisdom. Intelligence. The Big Bang. Nature's heart-beat. Miracle of transformation. Active nothingness. Web of existence.
Principle. Substance. Activity. Mind. Idea. Expression. Spirit of wholeness.
Mystery of our lives. Unlimited potential. Ultimate Reality. Do you mind if I call you by your nickname, "God"? Thanks. That keeps it simple. xoxoxo

Monday, May 28, 2007

Gay Actor and 70's TV Personality Dies

I LOVED Charles Nelson Reilly (as posts on 5/28/07, 4/9/07, 2/2/07, and 10/26/06 will demonstrate). Even as a child, I was drawn to him. A few months ago I actually thought of writing him a fan letter, but I decided against it. Now that he's died, I wish I had. One more fan letter at the end of life might have put a smile on his face. He certainly put many smiles on mine.

Charles Nelson Reilly studied acting at HB Studios and proved himself as a talented actor and director. He won a Tony award and was nominated for at least two others. He directed The Belle of Amherst and a revival of The Gin Game on Broadway. He was in the original cast of Hello Dolly and he won his first Tony for his role in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Tring. He was also an understudy for Paul Lynde in Bye Bye Birdie.

In spite of success as a Broadway actor and director, Reilly was best known as a game show personality, talk show guest, and episodic television guest star. His greatest notoriety probably came from his status as a regular on the Match Game. He was the "Bic Banana" and he also starred in two television programs for children, the first being Lidsville, a show about a magical world of hat people terrorized by an evil wizard, Hoodoo (played by Reilly).

Cameo appearances and voiceovers in Burt Reynolds' films are also part of his long resume. Though thought of as a TV personality rather than an extremely gifted artist, the truth is he was apparently a very good director and acting coach. He taught classes and directed regional productions in Florida and he would be invited to offer master-classes at prestigious acting schools. His final project was Save It for the Stage: The Life of Reily, a one-man autobiographical show he toured before taking it to Off-Broadway where it ran for several months. An independent film version of the production was later released.

What I loved most about CNR was that he out was "out" long before it was considered fashionable or safe to be open about one's homosexuality. He found fame and fortune in Television, but he often lamented that TV celebrity killed his acting career. I'm sure he enjoyed the theatre and was proud of his accomplishments on the boards. But I for one am glad that he found his way to television. He demonstrated to a queer kid in Arkansas in the 70's that a flambouyant, funny, gay-boy could be himself and be rewarded for it. To most of the world he may have been just Mr. Game Show, but to me he will always be one of my early queer heroes who taught me that I could find and celebrate myself as the person I was born to be.

Charles Nelson Reilly died Friday, May 25th at the age of 76 from pneumonia. He is survived by his life-partner, and by at least one life-long gay fan who is sad to learn of his demise.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

My Liberal Religious Ministry

I was ordained in 1997. I worked full-time at a large church as a student intern for three years before that. I promised myself that I would always respect congregants enough to share with them whatever I knew. Theological, biblical, or religious scholarship would never be a professional secret that I would keep. Whatever would enrich, challenge, or broaden my faith I would offer to others. They wouldn't need to accept my views uncritically nor would they need to adopt my opinions whole-heartedly, but I would offer them my honest thoughts and the best scholarship as I understood it. What they would do with my gifts would be up to them, but I would never assume that they were incapable of "handling" the information I had to share.

Fourteen years later I continue to share honestly with the congregation I serve. My views continue to evolve, but I share the reality of my faith as it is in the moment hoping that such a witness will encourage others to ask their own questions, discover their own truths, and share their own insights and experiences. I'm not very interested in doctrinal certainty or dogmatic conformity but rather an honest and reasonable faith that has room for doubt, that allows for change, and that assumes the sacred value of all people.

I have no notion that my belief or anyone else's will provide the assurance of eternal security. On the contrary, I assume the life-force is forever. Religion should improve this life, not promise another one. Life continues beyond this experience or it doesn't. Either way, religion isn't a guarantee that some will exist in a post-mortem paradise while others will be excluded from that paradise. Instead, for me, religion is an opportunity to form community, to ask questions, to search for meaning, and to find hope in life. If it accomplishes those lofty goals, it has proven itself valuable in our world.

Somehow, my approach to religion is often viewed as seditious, outrageous, even heretical. This always surprises me. And yet, my integrity demands that I share honestly. My optimism leads me to believe that such radical honesty helps at least some people.

So, I continue to offer a pluralistic and progressive approach to religion. I hope that the gifts that I offer are finding happy homes and that they are contributing to a better world. I will at least keep trying.

Friday, May 25, 2007

A Pacifist's Memorial Day Prayer

Mystery of our lives,

as we begin this Memorial Day weekend we are mindful of those who have sacrificed everything in the service of their countries. Sometimes the losses were in resistance to evil or oppression; so many other times the losses were for political or economic conflicts that should have been resolved without violence.

When the causes were just and when they were not, the lives lost to war were sacred, full of promise and potential, and we regret that wars are still waged and lives are still lost.

Not only must we remember the courageous souls who were sent by their governments to die on battlefields, but we must also remember with regret the conditions that lead some people to believe that offering their lives in military service is their best or only hope for economic or professional achievement.

We must remember the times we claimed all fighting was for "freedom" when in truth the battles did not advance our freedoms nor the cause of liberty or justice elsewhere.

May we repent for the times that we made our country, our flag, our leaders, or our privileges idols to be unquestionably worshiped, and may we never again allow people to die for our idolatries.

Let us honor those whose courage sent them into war, and those whose courage caused them to object to war. Let us remember those who died on the fields of battle and those who fortunately survived. Let us remember those who died in non-military battles - those who died in the struggle for civil rights, for gay liberation, and those who died on the viral battlefield of AIDS; their sacrifices were noble as well and we recall them with sadness.

Finally, let us continue to hope and to work without ceasing for peace in our world.

Source of all holiness, Fountain of all hope, gather our thoughts and aspirations and prayers together and let your healing spirit of peace now enfold our world. Amen.

I Rise

“Yoked to Divine Mind, we are receptive to Its ways. Yoked to our problem, we are receptive to strain and fear.” [Raymond Charles Barker]

The rising saint, hero, prophet, or god is not an unfamiliar myth. In legend and lore we see over and over the noble soul finding paradise, deification, immortality, or a place among the stars. When we read of Jesus’ ascension we aren’t merely to be impressed that something spectacular may have happened to him; we are to be encouraged that we can rise above our circumstances to renewed and abundant life. Today, I focus on possibilities rather than on problems, and thus I rise above circumstances to my rightful, divine place in the eternal heavens.

Prayer Treatment: I turn away from the appearance of problems and toward the wonderful possibilities that exist for me. I am rising now to my great potential. And so it is!

(c)Durrell Watkins, 2007

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Pentecost as Pluralism Sunday

I’m very excited about Pluralism Sunday, May 27th. At my church, we will hear the words of our Christian scriptures, hymns, and Communion liturgy, of course. But we will also hear poetic and prayerful words from the Jewish, Muslim, Unitarian, Native American, Hindu, Buddhist, Sufi, and Earth-based religious traditions.

Now, I know that talk of pluralism can make us nervous, especially if we come from traditions that insisted that only certain groups, vocabularies, or opinions were valid. But we always need to remember that the churches that told us other churches weren’t “legitimate” or that other religious traditions weren’t valid often were the same churches that told us same-gender love wasn’t real or that same-gender attraction was disordered. Luckily, we re-examined the beliefs we inherited about sexual orientation. But if the well meaning but mistaken people from our past got it wrong by trying to change, exclude, condemn or dismiss same-gender loving people, shouldn’t we consider that they were also mistaken in trying to change, exclude, condemn or dismiss people who worshiped differently from us? If God is big enough to allow for human love that transcends gender norms, whatever would make us think that God isn’t big enough to allow for love of the divine that differs from the tradition we find most appealing?

We will be celebrating Pluralism this year not to diminish the importance of Jesus in our lives nor to diminish the importance of our church or scriptures, but as an act of faith; that is, we will celebrate the joy of trusting God to be accessible in ways beyond how we came to know and love That which we call “God.”

The God we find in the human search for meaning recorded in our sacred texts and in the life of Jesus whom we call Christ is described by one New Testament writer as “Love.” Do only Christians love? Could the Source of all life love only Christians? The God that is love could no more restrict Itself to Christianity anymore than It could restrict Itself to heterosexuality! The God we have encountered in Jesus Christ is an all-embracing, all-inclusive, unconditional, limitless Love. We celebrate this truth week after week within the liturgies, traditions, and texts of our inherited (or chosen) Christian faith.

On Pentecost Sunday we will feel the unfettered spirit of God blow again through the words and devotional thoughts of people beyond our faith tradition. We will be reminded that the God who loves us just as we are loves all people just as they are. We remain grateful to the one in whom we first encountered the Divine, Jesus our Christ. But our devotion to him need not exclude or condemn those who have encountered the Divine in other ways.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Yolanda King Dies

With sadness we learn of Yolanda King's death today. An actor, activist, speaker, and daughter of the Civil Rights Movement, Ms. King was a voice of hope and a symbol of empowerment. I once had the privilege of hearing her speak when I was in college. She was a powerful and dynamic speaker and she had a commanding presence. An inheritor of her parents' nobility and an accomplished leader in her own right, Yolanda King will be missed. "Let light perpetual shine upon her."

Official MCC Statement on the Death of Jerry Falwell by Reverends Nancy L. Wilson and Troy D. Perry

MCC's Rev. Nancy Wilson once debated Rev. Jerry Falwell on the national (U.S.) late-night "Ron Reagan Show" hosted by Ron Reagan Jr., and on July 6, 1983, Rev. Troy Perry took part in a national (Canadian) debate on HIV and AIDS with Jerry Falwell on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. You can view the CBC archival video on-line at

May 15, 2007

Today we join with people of faith and conscience everywhere in expressing our condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Rev. Jerry Falwell, who died of heart failure while in his office at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. It is noteworthy that Jerry Falwell, once an adamant voice against the involvement in politics by people of faith, later become the face and voice most associated with conservative evangelical and fundamentalist Protestantism and its political influence in the United States.It is a sad truth to also note today that Jerry Falwell became one of the faces and voices most associated with religion-based condemnation of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender persons. While his passing most certainly brings sorrow to many, any honest appraisal of his life must also note that his work and words brought needless suffering to many LGBT people.

In our interactions over many years with Rev. Falwell, we came to believe two things about his views of LGBT people: 1) they were sincerely held and 2) they were sincerely wrong.Instead, we found that the Jesus of Scripture never supported the judgment and exclusion too often perpetrated by religious leaders throughout history. Like those who experienced rejection in Jesus' day, we, too, have found in Jesus a message of hope, and acceptance, and love.Today, we call upon people of faith and goodwill to ask simply that you join us in praying for Rev. Falwell's family. Join with us in praying that he, himself, will find peace in eternity.

We trust, as St. Paul said of the human condition, that though he saw dimly and understood many things, including God's gifts of diverse sexual orientations, with only partial insight, in the light of eternity and in the presence of God's unconditional love, he will now see and understand clearly. In this Light, we trust that he will now join the angels and saints in praying for all our sad divisions to cease.As we acknowledge the passing of Rev. Jerry Falwell, we recommit ourselves to pray for the healing and spiritual restoration of all who experienced pain and rejection from his teachings, and to MCC's vital mission of sharing the message of God's unconditional love with all of God's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender children.


+ Rev. Nancy L. Wilson, Moderator & +Rev. Troy Perry, Founder and Moderator Emeritus

This statement prepared in conjunction with MCC's Global Justice Team, Rev. Pat Bumgardner, Chair.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

On the Death of Jerry Falwell by Rev. Durrell Watkins

May 15th, 2007

The Reverend Jerry Falwell died early this afternoon, according to Falwell was a conservative activist, a Christian fundamentalist, and an opponent of the pro-choice movement, gay rights, and religious pluralism.

As a progressive and pluralistic Christian and a social liberal, I found myself holding views very different from most of Rev. Falwell’s stated positions. As a gay man and queer activist, I not only disagreed with many of Falwell’s views, but found myself feeling threatened and targeted by them.

However, in spite of differing opinions and life paths, I am reminded by Reverend Falwell’s death that life is fragile and short. The fragility and brevity of life should teach us that there is little room for grudges and hatreds and whereas Reverend Falwell preached and promoted views that I found offensive to my dignity, the truth remains that we are all part of the One Life, we are all connected within the Web of Existence, and we are all part of the same human family.

Therefore, we acknowledge that there are many people who love and respect Reverend Falwell and they must be saddened by his unexpected demise. We wish them comfort during this time of bereavement. And for Mr. Falwell, the energy of his consciousness will continue to evolve and journey forward; let us wish light and joy for his continued journey.

May Divine Love bless us all, reminding us of our unity, our common Source, and our sacred value.

Reverend Canon Durrell Watkins, MA, MDiv
Sunshine Cathedral

Sunday, May 13, 2007

We're All Right (Enough)

Religions seem to compete for members, trying to convince people that one Religion is best of all or in some cases that a particular Religion is exclusively "right." Besides the faithful (and sometimes fanatical) there are also the committed skeptics, insisting that our universe is completely material, our lives are brief and fragile, and Religion is a symptom (or even cause) of deep neurosis. And so the tug of war continues between the Religion and the non-Religious and among the Religious the struggle continues to "prove" which tradition is really "right."

Jesus (pardon my Christian bias) actually said something (or at least the statement is attributed to him) that might settle the issue entirely. The Jesus saying goes simply, "The Sabbath was made of humans, not humans for the Sabbath." The Sabbath, in his culture, was a day of observance mandated by his Religion. We could capture the spirit of the saying by paraphrasing it as, "Religion was made for humans, not humans for Religion."

If we could just remember that Religion is a tool for us to use rather than an imperial overlord that uses us, we could eliminate the angst created by religious competition. If Religion doesn't make sense to you or if it offends you, then a secular life is probably for you. If your personality thrives in the community that Religion creates or if you find comfort or empowerment from Religious ritual, then a life of Religious devotion may be for you. Which Religion? Pick one! Shop around for one that helps you live with love and hope and compassion and peace and then enjoy it. But please allow your neighbor to find the one that works for her/him. It may not be the one that you chose, and that has to be OK.

Is Religion bunk? I enjoy the ritual, sacred prose and poetry, and community that Religion brings together. So, I tend to believe Religion has merit. But I cannot accept that one Religion has all the answers or that members of one Religion are rewarded with an eternal paradise while all others are excluded from that paradise. The human soul exists or it doesn't. If it exists it is eternal or it isn't. But the soul's existence and durability doesn't depend on Religion. Religion isn't insurance to protect us from a worst-case afterlife scenario. Religion is for us, here and now. It seems to me this simple idea could de-fang Religion and thus allow it to enhance human life. Helping us is what Religion is for; let's not allow it to be the excuse we use to hurt, exclude, or vilify others any longer.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Response to "Gays Skewing the Word of God"

In a letter to the editor of the Jamaican Observer, an annoyed contributor expressed dismay that MCC's titular head and chief theologian Nancy Wilson, MDiv, recently visited Jamaica as an advocate for gay and lesbians in that country. From the lengthy and venomous letter, I share with you only four quotes and I respond to them. Our work is clearly not done. There is much more to do before all people are afforded equal rights. For the entire letter to the editor, visit

JMF writes: "[Rev. Nancy Wilson] might ask us soon to allow a man to marry a pig! Because from a Christian perspective, what would be the difference?"

DW: The difference, to any intelligent person, is that a pig could not consent. Two men or two women or a man and a woman can decide if they are attracted to one another and wish to enter into a physical relationship. That is not the case with a person and an animal. Adults within a species are certainly free to express desire and affection for one another. Now, if and when pigs evolve to the point of being able to speak and find employment and vote and be in every way equal in social-power to humans, then we'll discuss human-swine marriages. Until then, its too ridiculous to even bring up in a serious debate.

JMF writes: "Homosexuals are so bent on enjoying their lifestyle that they now want to skew the Word of God to suit themselves and then, when they cannot, they accuse others of misinterpreting the Word. God hates homosexuality and He does not apologise for it - if it is spoken against one time in the Bible it would be once too many times, but for it to be written against six times is showing God's complete distaste for the act."

DW: And God's ignorance of evolution, "his" [sic] uncritical acceptance of slavery, "his" mistaken notion that the sun travels throughout the sky (as we see when Joshua makes the moving sun stand still), "his" assumption that virgins and 90 year old women can conceive children, "his" tolerance of polygamy, and "his" laws against eating pork and shellfish (which "he" seems to forget later in the book of Acts) all seem OK to this person (I presume). First, that anyone believes God literally composed the contents of the bible continues to astound me. Secondly, that anyone would have the arrogance to state so boldly what God hates also astounds me. Finally, if God can condone slavery but not same-gender love, what use would any of us have for such a god?

JMF writes: "However, as Romans Chapter 1 starting at verse 22 states, 'Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves, who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature. And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one towards another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.'"

DW: One, St. Paul, not God, wrote the book of Romans. Two, "For this cause..." that is, in response to their idolatry, God punished the people Paul talks about WITH (not FOR) same-gender attraction. Thirdly, if it is a curse for one to try to change one's nature, wouldn't it be bad for gay people to try to change into straight people? One can certainly disagree with Paul's conclusions, and even if one (inexplicably) agreed with Mr. Paul, that still isn't an argument against a 21st century understanding of sexual orientation.

(Finally), JMF writes: "For the pastors claiming to be Christians who are approving of such churches, I repeat, they are not of God."

DW: Perhaps not of God as this person understands God. Thank God!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

We Need Another Buffy

"Do---do you think I chose to be like this? Do you have any idea how lonely it is, how dangerous? I would love to be upstairs watching TV or gossiping about boys or... God, even studying! But I have to save the world. Again." - Buffy (The Vampire Slayer)

"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" was one of the smartest television series ever in the history of the world. Action. Pop culture. Occult thrills. Philosophy. Wit. Humor. It was complex and thoughtful and I watched it with religious devotion.

I would like to think that I loved Buffy because I'm smart, witty, and I possess that rare combination of depth and whimsy. I might have liked it because there is something erotic about vampirism. Maybe the youthful cast made me feel younger. But I suspect it was the character of Buffy herself that appealed to me the most.

Buffy was special. She was born different than other people, but she didn't discover who she really was and what it meant until she was in her late teens. She came to realize that her difference was powerful and the world was actually better because she embraced her truth. Her unique gifts were needed in the world and her courage in accepting her role in life improved the lives of others. And yet, some were afraid of her difference. Others hated her for her difference. She often felt the need to "hide" her gifts from those who might not understand. And, because she was different, she often felt lonely, misunderstood, and unappreciated.

Buffy was a queer character. She was not only odd by society's standards but her love interests were sometimes "forbidden" and her friends were also "queer." She fell in love with a vampire and had an affair with another. Her friends were a "watcher" (a sort of wizard/scholar), a couple of lesbian witches, a werewolf, and a non-corporeal energy field who was given human form and became her mystically adopted sister.

For all her differences and oddities, Buffy was strong, noble, courageous, smart and funny. She was an embodiment of what a gift being queer really is. She didn't choose what she was, but she embraced it and lived it with integrity, and the world was better off as a result. Every queer identified person could see their lives reflected in Buffy's, and the life they saw was one of power, dignity, and accomplishment. We need another Buffy. Or maybe we need to remember that Buffy was simply reminding us of our own truth.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Keep Praying

Everything is energy. This isn't a startling revelation. We are energy fields within a larger energy field. Because we are part of the One energetic Source, our prayers (and thoughts and wishes and feelings and attitudes) make a difference. To hope, to imagine, to care, to can all be very powerful.

If the energy of life were a pond, then our every move would cause ripples in the pond. Some movements would be larger or more focused than others and would therefore cause bigger ripples (sometimes even waves), but every movement would cause movement within the pond.

Well, life is like a pond in which we "live and move and have our being," but instead of being filled with water this pond is filled with eternal, indestructible energy that has always existed, always will, and is constantly moving into and out of form. So, our thoughts, aspirations, intentions, and choices all cause ripples (and sometimes waves) within this energy pond. When we pray for gay and lesbian Jamaicans to be safe in their country, our prayers are rippling throughout the Universe and will create some kind of change. When we pray for peace in the middle east, the ripples go out. When we pray for a cure for AIDS or Alzheimer's or MS, the ripples go out. When we pray for anything, we know currents of life-energy are flowing to that situation, directed by our intentional prayers. So keep praying. Everything is energy and prayer is a way of directing energy toward accomplishment. Imagine the best, believe in possibilities, and know the energy of life is moving as directed by our prayers.