“You don’t understand”–Finding a Path in an Era of Religious and Political Extremism

“You don’t understand…Hamas wants to wipe Israel out of existence, off the face of the earth. I have no compassion for Palestinians.”

“You don’t understand…you can talk about love all you want, but if you don’t let gay people live out their sexuality to the fullest, you are spreading hate.”

“You don’t understand…Islam is not a religion of peace. Their only solution is to kill all infidels, and we saw the result on 9/11. You’re crazy if you think you can negotiate with a terrorist.”

In some unexplained freak loss of good sense, in a two week period I used social media to post about Israel/Palestine as well as human sexuality. Continue reading

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Way Forward?

(These words and thoughts are my own. I am not in any clerk position in our Yearly Meeting and do not speak for our Yearly Meeting. As a community, we have not discussed many of these ideas, but I offer them in hope that these words or some like it might be affirmed by the Yearly Meeting as a way forward.)

As Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends, we have just completed our 122nd annual sessions. In our discussions and business this week we discerned that we are not in unity around a proposed revision to our Faith and Practice about human sexuality. What might be further said?

We are in unity and we affirm our love for persons who identify as LGBTQ (both in and out of NWYM).

We are in unity and we affirm that all people, including those who identify as LGBTQ, are made in God’s image and can hear and respond to the Holy Spirit, the Light within.

We are in unity and we affirm that sexual intimacy is a gift of God, both for procreation and to build and sustain bonds of mutual love and respect between a man and a woman in a marriage relationship.

Where Friends are in disagreement is in our understanding of God’s direction for how sexual intimacy should be practiced outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. Some among us believe the Bible and the historic church clearly teach celibacy for those who are not in a heterosexual marriage. Some among us believe the Spirit’s leading and the Bible allow sexual intimacy to be practiced in a committed marriage, regardless of gender.

We acknowledge the extreme difficulty of a life of celibacy, and affirm that it is possible only through God’s sustaining power.  We acknowledge the difficulty involved when a largely heterosexual group interprets God’s will for those in the sexual minority.

So as we wait for God’s Spirit to bring us to unity, we also wish to humble ourselves before God in confession and repentance.

We confess that in the past and the present, our words and actions have not always matched our professed love for persons who identify as LGBTQ. We repent of this, and we ask forgiveness from those who have been hurt.

We confess that we have not always upheld the value of the person as we have condemned certain sexual behaviors. We repent of this, and we ask forgiveness from those who have been hurt.

We confess that we have not always obeyed Jesus’ command to be like the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). We have walked on the other side of the road as LGBTQ persons have died of AIDS, been bullied, harassed, abused, murdered, and committed suicide. We repent of this, and we ask forgiveness.

Have mercy, Lord Jesus.

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Good News first, THEN teaching

(Message given at Newberg Friends Church on July 20, 2014)

Mauri Macy used to have us sing familiar hymns, but we would sing them to an alternate tune.

Years ago, I had developed this elaborate picture in my mind of how he did this. I pictured him in the sanctuary at night. Candles were all around the piano. He sat there, playing a familiar hymn, and then he would close his eyes, look heavenward…and then it would just come to him! A completely new tune that fit perfectly and beautifully with he words!

Reality was so much less exciting than my beautiful picture. Come to find out, every hymn is broken down by the number of syllables in each line, like 7/7/7/8. And then there is a resource where you can look up that metre and rhythm and find all the hymn tunes that work with that lyric pattern. Effective, but so not the picture I had.  Continue reading

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Worship and Purpose-Part 5

(Message given at Newberg Friends Church on July 6, 2014)

At the beginning of June, we started this series on the purpose of the church and the purpose of worship.

We’ve been trying to set out some of the foundational beliefs we have about church. We began looking at the unique history of our church, the beautiful unity that came from a quiet conservative Quaker named William Hobson and a revivalist preacher named John Henry Douglas. We then started working through Ephesians, seeing in chapter 1 verse 10 God’s purpose to bring all things in creation in right relationship with Jesus. If God’s purpose is unity, then love is the dominant force. Continue reading

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Worship and Purpose- Part 4

(Message given at Newberg Friends Church on June 29, 2014)

For the last couple of years, I have been wrestling with what I am beginning to think is one of the fundamental divides in Christianity.

It comes out in a variety of ways, but I’ve summed it up most recently a couple of weeks ago like this: Do we think God is ultimately and fundamentally dividing/separating/judging the world, or do we think God is ultimately and fundamentally trying to unify/love/redeem the world?

Saying it that way betrays my belief…it makes the second sound better. A more fair way to state the distinction is to talk about who God is and what God is doing. One way would say, “God is holy, and God’s loving actions are to rescue humanity from sinfulness.” Another would say, “God is loving, and God’s sacrificial actions are to bring humanity into right relationship with Jesus Christ.” Continue reading

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Worship and Purpose-Part 3

(Message given at Newberg Friends Church on June 22, 2014)

For several weeks, I’ve been trying to build a case.

We’re in a series where we are looking at the purpose of worship and the purpose of our church. In times of transition, it’s important to communicate what our vision and values are. I’ve been building the case for our purpose out of the book of Ephesians, and seeing the vision God has for bringing unity to all creation under Christ as the foremost purpose of God and of the church. Continue reading

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Worship and Purpose-Part 2

(Message given June 15, 2014 at Newberg Friends Church. We had great discussion at the end in both of the services.)

Any of you ever spend time doing mazes? 

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I was obsessed with these things in like fourth and fifth grade. I got to the place where I would doodle my own maze creations while I was sitting in class. Ones like this could be stressful, because there are three ways to start. If you choose one of the wrong ones, it doesn’t matter how many twists and turns you try, you’re never going to make it out. You’ll never get where you’re supposed to be. Continue reading

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