Friday, February 28, 2014

Saved? No thank you...

I often say, if the fundies are right, i (and most of us) are HOSED; but if I'm right, then their is no penalty for them being wrong (other than maybe the day comes that they regret having made so many others miserable). I'd rather be wrong than spend 5 minutes (never mind eternity) with the god they present, and I'd rather live with the peace and hope that universalist, spiritual humanism offers than with the fear of an angry god (or the sadness that must accompany knowing that even if that god doesn't flick me like a booger into the fires of hell, the divine sadist is doing that to many good, kind, gentle, loving people simply for having one opinion rather than another). Not only could I never accept (or promote) the saved vs. damned brand of religion, i still don't understand how it appeals to those who do embrace it. but that's me...

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Hot Damn & Hallelujah!

The governor of Arizona vetoed the hateful anti-gay bill that the AZ legislature passed and predictions are currently that there won't be the votes needed to overide it. A victory for justice to be sure. Let's hope for marriage equality in AZ (and in FL and in AR and in TN and in MS and in ID get it), but at least for now, one can't be denied service in AZ for being gay. Moving forward...

Arizona, Uganda...What a Mess (pastoral letter eblast sent Feb 26, 2014)

"Love and Truth will meet; Justice and Peace will kiss."
Psalm 85

What a mess. Arizona has passed an anti-gay bill that would allow businesses to deny service to people they perceive to be gay as long as they claim they are doing so as an act of religious faith. I hope, as do justice-seekers everywhere, that the governor of that state will veto the legislation.

Other states have tried to pass similar measures. One wonders how justice, equality, fairness, and non-discrimination can have a religious exemption! I recall Archbishop Desmond Tutu once saying, "If God, as they say, is homophobic, I wouldn't worship that God." How I wish more religious leaders shared (and voiced) that sentiment!

While we watch with equal parts hope and horror to what is happening in Arizona, we also watch with devastating despair (but also with outrageous optimism that the situation can be redeemed) the dehumanizing law in Uganda making homosexuality a crime. If as a matter of ontology one is gay or lesbian, that person can be arrested and incarcerated. To add to the suffering, a tabloid has published the names and photos of 200 people it has identified as being gay (and I know at least two of them). Gay and lesbian persons have been told they have no right to exist and they will be denied human dignity and compassion in their own land. It rends the heart. 

A British newspaper recently reported that 2.5% of the world's gays and lesbians live in countries where they can be executed simply for being who they are, 40% live in countries where they are targeted (and can be in some way punished) for the "crime" of being lesbian or gay, and 44% of the planet's gay inhabitants (187 million people) live in countries where they are not criminalized per se, but where they are also not afforded equal protections under the law (and that includes the Queer folk who live in the United States where marriage equality is not yet nationwide). Almost 87% of the world's same-gender loving people live where they are not treated as if they are full citizens of their native lands, and almost 43% of the world's gay people live where they are not treated as if they are fully human.

Colonization (of lands by imperial governments and of souls by missionaries from the same imperialist nations) has left a devastating legacy all over the world, and Victorian era homophobia is part of that shameful legacy.
Religion at its best brings people together to explore spirituality and celebrate human potential; at its worst it is used as a weapon to dominate, control, and wound people.

Religion was very much a partner in the atrocities of colonization. Again, I call on the wisdom of Desmond Tutu who has shared this story, "When the missionaries came to Africa, they had the bible and we had the land. They said, 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes and when we opened them, we had the bible and they had the land." 

The seeds of intolerance were planted among people whose resources were robbed by colonizing forces; when the colonized nations regained their autonomy, many of them were left without their natural wealth and were burdened with values that were not indigenous to them. The harvest of those seeds too well sown is now painfully abundant.

So, while we work for justice in Arizona and other areas of the U.S. still hostile to the LBGT community, we must also be mindful of the pain caused beyond our borders in places that are duplicating the prejudices that Europe and North America exported to them, prejudices which even now are stirred by American evangelists who teach "zero tolerance" for homosexuality but then want to appear shocked when laws are passed to imprison or kill gay people.

Yes, we must speak out against the soul crushing actions recently taken in Uganda. Quoting Archbishop Tutu one final time, "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."  But let us not be xenophobic or allow ourselves to feel in anyway superior as we express our concerns. What has happened in Arizona is happening in other parts of the world, perhaps "amped up" quite a bit, but we are all part of the human family and we all must share this one world, and in some very real ways, "our" society at various times has contributed to the injustices that we now see in other places; let's do hold that in our thoughts as we work and pray for healing in and among all nations. 

It's complicated. It's a mess. But what matters most now is saving lives and reducing the burden of oppression.

This is my prayer: May the Good in and around us, which is known by countless names, lead us in the ways of healing, peace, and justice. May religion ill used be redeemed; and may those who use religion as a weapon have a change of heart. As we think of those who live in fear or danger because religion has dehumanized and demonized them, let us pause in this moment to affirm their sacred value and to wish them safety and well-being. And may those of us who continue to march under the banner of religion never again use it as a tool of oppression. Amen.  

With hope, always,
 Durrell SIg
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
Senior Minister 

Less than an hour after this eblast went out, the governor of AZ vetoed that state's anti-gay bill. Let's now hope the veto isn't over-ridden and let's continue to focus our efforts on bringing hope and healing to Uganda.

Our Hearts Go Out to Same-gender Loving Ugandans (pastoral letter eblast from Feb 25, 2014)

"The weapons of our warfare are not physical
but they are mighty to the pulling down of oppressive strongholds!"
The Apostle Paul

"Seek justice; encourage the oppressed." Isaiah 1.17

Dear laborers in the vineyard of justice,

Sadly, Uganda's President Museveni signed today the anti-gay bill that can result in draconian cruelty against same-gender loving Ugandans. The out of control homophobia/homohatred was actually fueled by US fundamentalist Christians. The dehumanizing rhetoric used to deny gays and lesbians both dignity and liberty is further fueled by the universally rejected quack science that fundamentalists often embrace.

The US government gives millions of dollars in aid to Uganda. So, not only did American religious zealots and even some American politicians take the "zero tolerance" anti-gay message to Uganda, but American tax dollars help sustain the economy of a country that is violating the most basic civil rights of its homosexual citizens.

This latest outrage against human dignity is, regrettably, not an isolated incident. Jamaican gays continue to live in fear for their lives. Nigeria remains an unsafe place for many gay people. Homophobia is now rampant in Russia. And even in the US, while 17 states offer marriage equality, other states continue their attempts to legislate discrimination against LBGT people.

Of course, irresponsible anti-gay preaching has fueled much of this soul-killing hatred. So, Sunshine Cathedral will continue to share a progressive and inclusive message affirming the sacred value of all people. Our alternative message is needed now as much as it has ever been; in fact, lives may depend on it.

Here are some things you can do to help energize our efforts to offer hope and healing to LBGT people and their allies all over the world:
~ Call (1.202.647.4000) or email ( the US Secretary of State asking for diplomatic action in response to the anti-gay legislation in Uganda.

~ Continue your support of Sunshine Cathedral as we speak out against these atrocities. Sunshine Cathedral is part of the Metropolitan Community Churches movement which affirms social justice as a key element of the Gospel.

~ Contact the office of the Ugandan president ( and respectfully (but clearly) ask him to take measures within the Ugandan legal system to reverse this great injustice.

~Pray daily for all the LBGT people everywhere who face rejection, vilification, incarceration, and even death simply for being who they are.

We know that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere"; therefore, it is right that we expression concern and compassion as LBGT people continue to be targeted all over the world. But never give up hope! We also know that "the moral arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice."

 Durrell SIg
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
Senior Minister
Sunshine Cathedral 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Prayer in Response to Recent Waves of Religion Inspired Homophobia

Homophobia is running rampant (again)~Arizona, Tennessee, Nigeria, Uganda...a lot of crazy in the world right now, and religion at its most dysfunctional is the root of almost all of it. Some have given up on religion (and honestly, who could blame them?).

Others of us have found myths and rituals and community to be healing and life-giving and we just refuse to give them up even if far too many have used religion as a weapon to oppress, vilify, marginalize, and torment first one group and then another.

As one who still believes in the potential of healthy religion, or at least in shared spirituality which religion at its best faciliates, today I pray:

May the divine Power, the indomitable hope, the mystery of life, the power of love, the vastness of the universe, the invisible ties that unite all living beings, the wisdom of ages, the indefatigable creativity of the human spirit known as gods and angels and guides and ancestors and magic lead us in the ways of healing, peace, and justice. May religion ill used be redeemed; and may those who use religion as a weapon have a change of heart. As I think of those who live in fear or danger because religion has dehumanized and demonized them, I pause in this moment to affirm their sacred value and to wish them safety and well-being; in the name of all I call holy. Amen.

-- Durrell Watkins (2014)

Plain Talk

Plain Talk
A progessive sermon (focusing on social justice)

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Sharing a Colleague's Wise Words (about Privilege)

“Talking about privilege is difficult, if it makes you uncomfortable that's probably a good thing. Growth is uncomfortable. Let's all examine the places we have privilege. Are you white? Are you able-bodied? Are you not trans? Are you a man? Are you straight? Are you financially comfortable? Are you well educated? These aren't things that should make you feel shame! But if you are in these categories (especially if you are in most of these categories) please have some awareness about those whose lives are complicated simply by not being you.” Rev Jakob Hero (MCC minister/hospital chaplain)

Monday, February 03, 2014

FREE Introductory Positive Spirituality Course (7 Lessons, 12 minutes or less each)








Omnipresence, Is There a Science to Prayer?, Responsibility Without Blame, & Saved From What?are discussions with Rev Dr Durrell Watkins, Rev Cindy Lippert, and Practitioner Candice Gee

Reasonable, Relevant Religion is a discussion with Rev Dr Durrell Watkins, Rev Dr Will Mercer, and Rev Cindy Lippert

What’s a Miracle? is a discussion with Rev Dr Durrell Watkins, Rev Dr Will Mercer and Rev Sedare Coradin Mercer

The Christ Method of Healing is a discussion with Rev Dr Durrell Watkins, Rev Sedare Coradin Mercer and Rev Cindy Lippert

These lessons can be used individually or one after the other as an introductory course in New Thought metaphysics. These resources are available for you to use them as you will. 

Durrell Watkins is ordained an MCC minister (since 1997), Certified Reiki Master (since 2001), ordained Divine Science minister (since 2011) and an initiate in the Kriya Yoga meditation method (since January 2014)
Durrell is the Senior Minister of Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale, FL
He holds degrees from Henderson State University, Goddard College, Union Theological Seminary, and the Episcopal Divinity School with additional studies from the College of Divine Metaphysics and the United Divine Science Ministerial School.

Cindy Lippert is ordained a Divine Science minister and is formerly licensed as a Unity minister. She is the past president of the International New Thought Alliance. She has completed theological courses of study from the United Divine Science Ministerial School, the Unity Institute, and the Samaritan Institute.

Candice Gee is ordained as an Interfaith minister and is a practitioner and ministerial student at Agape International Spiritual Center in Culver City, CA.

Will Mercer is a retired attorney, former chaplain, the President of the Divine Science Federation International and the Assistant Minister of the United Divine Freedom Church of the Healing Christ in NYC where he also has a very active wedding ministry. He is a graduate of the Lola Pauline Mays Seminary and is an ordained Divine Science minister.

Sedare Coradin Mercer holds a Master’s degree in Finance and is a graduate of the United Divine Science Ministerial School. She is the founding minister of United Divine Freedom Church of the Healing Christ in NYC, the President of the Divine Science Ministers Association, and a member of the INTA Governing Board. Before becoming a Divine Science practitioner and minister she was active in the I AM movement.  

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Look at what is possible, not at what is past

Sunday, February 2

Look at what is possible, not at what is past
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Senior Minister, Sunshine Cathedral

“I don’t measure America by its achievement but by its potential.” Shirley Chisolm

Maybe we’ve achieved many of our goals. Maybe we haven’t done as well as we once hoped we might. Maybe we seem miles away from our hearts’ desires. Maybe we’ve been outrageously fortunate. In any case, the past is PAST. What is our current potential? What might we achieve today and in the days ahead? Success is neither a memory nor a fantasy; it’s a very real possibility NOW. Let’s embrace our potential and remember that the future has INFINITE possibilities.

The past is past and the future has infinite possibilities!

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Preparing for and Continuing in Ministry

Preparing for and Continuing in Ministry
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins

I had a lot of preparation for ministry. When I was ordained in MCC a BA in SOMETHING was required (study skills, contacts, social skills, negotiating shared space, research skills…these are the gifts of an undergraduate education that go well beyond one’s major and minor. Even a fluff major at a party school involves meeting deadlines, working with diverse people, setting and achieving goals, and these are all skills that are VERY useful in pastoring.

Beyond the BA (or its equivalent, there are alternative ways to meet the same goals), a set of courses was required from MCC’s ministry school (now defunct), or a master’s degree from a theological seminary was required in lieu of the course of study prescribed by MCC’s school. The training was meant to be at the graduate level and included very practical skills such as Church Administration, Religious Education, Preaching, Worship, and Pastoral Care as well as more “academic” studies such as bible and church history (a pastor is not only a care-giver and administrator, but is also a teacher and public intellectual, so the academic pieces are equally important).

The BA, the graduate level courses, a criminal background check, an internship, and an interview with a “Board of Ordained Ministry” rounded out the requirements. I can’t imagine if they had been less than they were…I have used every resource, and the thought of having fewer than I started with is terrifying! (MCC went on to increase the requirements…now a Master of Divinity, two and sometimes three internships are required, background checks and psychological testing are required, and there is still the final interview…I think MCC has done its pastors a HUGE favor by requiring more and thereby offering more for the work they must do).

MCC also requires 9 hours a year of continuing education for clergy.
I have spent most of my professional years getting those hours pursuing higher degrees. A liberal arts MA, an MDiv from a world class seminary, a Doctor of Ministry from another great divinity school, two semesters toward a third master’s degree, and lots of workshops, books, webinars, and conferences have kept me going.

So, while there is always more to learn, I at least don’t feel “under prepared” and I know lots of places to turn for further help and development.

That having been said, there are many “traps” that I have learned to avoid (after falling face first into a few of them).
1.     In MCC, there is an assumption that only senior/solo pastoring is “real” pastoring. This attitude obviously won’t attract (and keep) quality staff ministers. I firmly believe that that some people are particularly gifted as support, programming, or team ministers. Staff ministers are ministers. Assistant pastors are pastors. Chaplains, interim pastors as well as senior pastors are all needed, have special gifts, and should be affirmed for doing what they do well. I have spent years trying to persuade my colleagues (I finally just gave up because I didn’t want to seem contentious about it) that at Sunshine Cathedral we don’t have associate or assistant ministers. We have ministers who bring their expertise to an executive team and I lead the team that collectively leads the church. I am the CEO/Senior Minister, but without my team I would be a solo minister and that is a very different job (I’ve been a staff minister, a solo minister, a chaplain, and a senior minister…and in every position I was a minister). So I very much appreciate the ministers who work with me in a way that makes us all collectively effective. If we don’t start affirming the legitimacy (and necessity) of all pastors (and not just senior pastors), we will lose a lot of great talent and that will not serve our movement well.

2.     When denominations exist to equip, support, and encourage local churches and ministries, then the local church or ministry can do what it exists to do…reach out to the community. When churches are expected to make denominational bureaucracy a priority and meeting affiliation requirements are seen as more important than doing ministry and being a spiritual home for those in the local community, then ministry becomes a burden, stewardship becomes “taxation without representation” and the energy and resources needed to “be” the local church are siphoned off and the local church suffers. Sometimes MCC has longed to look like older, larger structures with superintendents, bishops, archbishops, archdeacons, overseers, apostles and prophets, but trying to build an institution rather than having a lean support system that can help churches build themselves has been very draining on MCC in recent years. I have great respect for a good Moderator, a good CFO, and an effective resourcing arm (like our amazing Office of Formation & Leadership Development) as well as a professional support staff and dedicated volunteer governing board, but I hope our focus in the future is more on local ministry than on “the organization” which, without local churches, has no reason to exist.

3.     In churches (not just MCC), pastors are often seen as either super human or subhuman.
When I am put on a pedestal I quake with terror because I know that when the person venerating me figures out that I am as mortal (and maybe more flawed) than he or she is, then his/her disappointment may well present as rage and be directed toward their former hero!

Also, there are those who hate all authority figures and who expect churches to be the place that will allow them to act out their various dysfunctions (and when they are held accountable for their behavior, the behavior sometimes becomes much worse before it improves or the bad actor leaves).

The people who take out their disappointments with life or who try to feel good about themselves by controlling or humiliating an authority figure can cause a lot of emotional damage and the pain and psychic wreckage takes a huge toll; and while pastors are expected to be bullet proof, I can assure you that the soul killing experience of dealing with a full on antagonist is enough to make one consider a “safer” line of work.

4.     Of course things like days off and vacations are important. Of course, having adequate support staff and committed volunteers is important. Of course continuing education is important. But what is as important as all of this is on-going spiritual practice.
Writing a sermon is not the same as hearing one; preparing a class lesson is not the same as taking a class. Praying aloud in public worship services is not the same as quiet time in the “secret place of the most high” and leading worship is not the same as participating in an experience you haven’t crafted and supervised.
The work and study we do is spiritual, but it is mostly what we give. The psalmist wrote, “My cup overflows.” The overflow is what we have to share, but if we aren’t filling our cups, all the “wine” will flow out and our cup will become empty.
Daily meditation, private prayer, retreats or classes or reading just for personal enjoyment and enrichment are essential. If spiritual leaders don’t intentionally renew their own spiritual reserves, then they won’t have what they need to endure the difficulties, uncertainties, and anxieties of ministry.

A piece on offers these tidbits:
Most pastors are overworked.
90% of pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week and 50% feel unable to meet the demands of the job.

And 70% of pastors feel grossly underpaid.

Most pastors feel unprepared.
90% of pastors said the ministry was completely different than what they thought it would be like before they entered the ministry.

Many pastors struggle with depression and discouragement.
70% of pastors constantly fight depression and 50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.

This means that half of the 1,700 or so pastors who leave the ministry each month have no other way of making a living. Their education and experience is wrapped up solely in the work of the ministry.

So, not only do pastors struggle with their choice to leave ministry, they have to worry about how they are going to feed their families.

Speaking of families, most pastors’ families are negatively impacted.
80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.

Many pastors are lonely.
70% do not have someone they consider a close friend and 40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.

50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.
And 4,000 new churches begin each year while 7,000 churches close.

Working in ministry can be challenging. Families suffer, discouragement and depression – amongst a gamut of other things – runs like a river in the lives of those who sacrifice their own life to the cause of the church.

Self-care, spiritual practices, continuing education, an appreciation for all the kinds of pastors there are, and a primary focus on local rather than denominational ministry, I believe, are essential to survival in the professional ministry. Otherwise, the discouraging trends of decline, burnout, and bailout will likely continue. And that is something “the Church” can’t afford, and it’s something that people who need “the Church” can’t afford either. Fellow ministers, let’s support one another as much as we can. Our work is important and rewarding, but it ain’t always easy and if we aren’t careful, things might not work out as we once hoped and dreamed.

Don't get it twisted

Saturday, February 1
 (Spirit & Truth magazine)
The first woman bishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion was the Rt Rev Barbara C. Harris (b. 1930)

Don’t get it twisted
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
Senior Minister, Sunshine Cathedral

“…Humankind was created in the divine image.” Genesis 5.1

Sometimes, we confuse being made in God’s image with God being made in ours. We imagine God as a dictator (according to our image of power); or, we imagine God as white, or male, or American, or heterosexual (or asexual with a pathological bias against gays & lesbians). We often imagine God hating all the things and people we find objectionable. But God isn’t a reflection of our socially conditioned selves; we are part of the Wholeness and Perfection that is divine. When we see ourselves in God’s image instead of imagining God constrained by human conditions, we seek “power with” rather than “power over.” When we trust our goodness, we just don’t need others to be “bad.”

Today I will try to remember to live a bit more into my divinity.