Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Glen Beck ... bless him

Walking past the Capitol today, I saw a crowd gathered and wandered over to see what was happening. It was an anti-IRS Tea Party Rally. 

I got to hear some of Glen Beck's speech. He said the Tea Party is the current civil rights movement. He said it represents the current day expression of the teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr, Gandhi and Bonhoeffer ... and Moses and Jesus.

He said we should stop worrying about the slavery of the past and start doing something about the slavery of today, although I was unsure whether he was referring to sex slaves or being enslaved by the IRS.

He is a spell-binder, but it is a tad hard to follow his logic. 

Here is a portion of the speech I heard. (He seems to dislike John Boehner even more than Obama, by the way.)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Marsh Chapel choir is way way super cool

Boston University Marsh Chapel choir is an exceptionally skilled group of singers ... mostly music majors from BU.

This summer I will be returning to Marsh Chapel to preach August 11 and 18. Hearing the choir is always a pleasure. (If you live in New England you can hear the choir sing on the Sunday morning broadcasts of the chapel service on WBUR.)

However, the Marsh Chapel choir has now entered a new realm of coolness. Here is a YouTube video of them backing up Mick Jagger during the recent Rolling Stones concert in Boston.

A big fist bump to the Marsh Chapel choir.  Way way super cool!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tourist traps ... all the stuff

Fake jumping beans

Ash tray in the shape of South Carolina

For many years we lived in the North and my brother Nevin lived in the South. As a preacher I had more vacation time than money, so just about every summer we would travel south to mooch off of Nevin for a week or two. He was a great host. 

I don’t know when the signs would begin, maybe in Virginia. Two hundred miles to South of the Border ... 190 miles to South of the Border ... 180 miles to South of the Border ... 175 miles to South of the Border. Until everyone in the car was obsessed with South of the Border, which turned out to be a place to spend money on things you absolutely didn’t need and didn’t really want but, for some reason, at the moment, had to have. You bought Mexican jumping beans and South Carolina state ash trays out of the strange mixture of excitement and boredom that comes with a road trip.

  A photo of the original Waffle House, located in Decatur, which opened Labor Day 1955.
On the journey south, starting maybe in southern Virginia, in every town we passed, we would begin to see signs for a Waffle House. There were no Waffle Houses in Philadelphia. In the South there seemed to be more Waffle Houses than Baptist churches. So we would eventually end up eating at a Waffle House during the trip to Nevin’s house. 

I hope I don’t offend anyone but I had never eaten a meal at a Waffle House that I did not regret afterwards until two years ago. Jane and I spent a long weekend in Richmond to see a Tiffany glass exhibit at the museum and a live Prairie Home Companion radio show. Next to our hotel was a Waffle House. We went there for lunch one day and the Waffle House had a salad on the menu.  I ordered it and they brought me a mountain of raw vegetables and a plastic jar of Kraft Salad Dressing (they had only one flavor) and I had a healthy lunch at a Waffle house. The salad costs 50 cents. This is the only meal at a Waffle House that I remember not regretting afterwards.

Jewelery boxes from the Visitors' Center in Petra, Jordan.

 Or perhaps you have the opportunity to travel more broadly in your life. Every tour you take includes a stop at an authentic local handicraft store where you can buy authentic replicas of whatever the region was known for from pottery to rugs to tapestries. In the midst of your vacation, you suddenly find yourself needing a full 16th century replica set of Roman dishware. Or Turkish rugs. Or Middle Eastern mosaics. 

Eventually you find yourself living in a house full of things that you can no longer remember where you got them or why.  And it is time to downsize.  Your kids have their own stuff and don’t want yours, and you just hope that you are the first one to go so that the other person has to deal somehow with all of the stuff.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Bishop McLee: Advocate for full inclusion

MIND is the group within the New York Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church working to end discrimination against LGBTQ people. (I am a big fan of MIND, by the way.)

Here is part of their report from Day 2 of the annual session of the NY Conference:

The day ended with Bishop McLee’s first episcopal address to the New York Annual Conference. He began by saying “I am going to be myself” and straightforwardly shared his views in a wide-ranging speech. “Let’s talk about the complaint process,” he said, tackling head-on the current prosecution of Tom Ogletree (though not by name). He stood by his position that he has no choice but to refer a case to counsel for the church if the evidence supports the complaint, and noted that he had gotten responses critical of that position, some of them demeaning. But he also proclaimed, “For the last 13 years I have been an advocate for the full inclusion of God’s gay and lesbian children in the life of the church.”
Once again, as in Upper New York, Bishop McLee is a brand new bishop elected just last year.

I have much sympathy for leaders like Bishop McLee who are responsible to oversee a system that seeks to punish people for doing things they know are right and good. I am especially sympathetic to brand new bishops who are just learning the ropes.

Still, as I said the other day, none of us gets to choose the justice issues of the time in which we are called to lead. The wind blows where it will. (John 3:8) The question of whether God's gay and lesbian children will be fully included and honored in the United Methodist Church is an issue no bishop in our time will be able to avoid.

It may not be the only issue but it is an unavoidable one. 

I have a great respect for the office of bishop. I believe in the episcopacy because I believe in leadership. Actually, I have a great hope that the bishops will help us make it through this test of history.    

If I read history correctly, the racist Central Jurisdiction ended when a group of bishops decided it was an embarrassment to the church and they determined they needed to make sure it ended. They worked behind the scenes to support the work of activists and legislators like W. Astor Kirk to end it.

I am grateful to Bishop McLee for having the courage to announce to his annual conference that he supports the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the life of our church.

I am also grateful to our own Bishop Marcus Matthews for his advocacy on behalf of a fully inclusive church.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The holy temple of hardware

One of the Washington Post reporters who covered the fire that destroyed Frager's Hardware store on Capitol Hill last night is Michelle Boorstein.

Michelle Boorstein
I immediately recognized her name because she is the religion reporter for the Post. How appropriate, I thought, sending the religion reporter to cover the fire at Frager's. 

For those of us who live in the weird old houses of Capitol Hill, Frager's was a temple where we went at least weekly to ask the priest what the mysterious thing was that just broke under the sink and what sin we committed to cause it to break. The priest would search deeply within the secret and hidden places within the temple, produce a mysterious replacement and and sent us home with instructions on what we had to do with it to live a better and happier life. We paid our tithe at the counter.We paid gladly.

It turns out that Michelle Boorstein helped cover the story because she happens to live in the neighborhood as she explains in this poignant personal essay.

Still, it was totally fitting to have the religion reporter cover the fire at Frager's. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Prayers for Rev. Heiss and Bishop Webb

Rev. Stephen Heiss
The Rev. Stephen Heiss,  pastor of Tabernacle United Methodist Church in Binghamton, N.Y., has written an open letter to his bishop saying that he has officiated at several weddings for same-gender couples over the past several years -- including his daughter's wedding to her partner.

The letter is posted on the Reconciling Ministries Network blog here.

The Upper New York Conference has a brand new bishop just elected to be a bishop last year. I knew Bishop Mark Webb as an outstanding pastor when he was a much younger person years ago in another conference. I respected him for his commitment to reach people and his caring, balanced ministry.

It is hard to see brand new bishops who hardly have their feet on the ground yet having to deal with what they surely must feel to be a tension between their oath to uphold the Book of Discipline and a basic human rights issue like marriage.

Bishop Mark Webb
New bishops are just learning to exercise the authority of their office, so I suspect some of them can sometimes be a bit defensive when they sense their authority challenged.  I remember Bishop Webb as an unusually open, non-defensive pastor.

We are in the midst of a season of rethinking prejudices that are centuries old, that may have been assumed (like slavery and patriarchy) by some of the biblical writers, and that are deeply engraved in the psyches of some United Methodists.

So we should keep both Pastor Heiss and Bishop Webb in our prayers.

Stephen Heiss has taken a courageous and honorable position. Bishops need to remember that this is what they signed up for -- being a bishop in a time when our society is experiencing dramatic change in understanding issues of sexual identity. None of us, including bishops, get to pick the issues of the age in which we serve.

I  remember hearing someone say once that they wished they had lived in the time of the movement to abolish slavery when the issue was so clearly one of right and wrong and the biblical evidence was so clear. The issue of marriage equality is equally one of right and wrong and the Bible says little if anything opposing same-gender love as compared to many passages that seem to support slavery, but it may take a few decades for everyone to see this clearly.

We can not live in any other era. We need to live through the movement of the Spirit in our time. We cannot pick our issues. We can only choose whether we will stand with old understandings and the old law or with the grace of God trying to break through.

I still believe that rules in the Book of Discipline that discriminate against LGBTQ persons violate the United Methodist constitution, as the late W. Astor Kirk argued, if only there were a way to test it. 

May God guide both Pastor Heiss and Bishop Webb.