Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Tutu on gay priests

According to the Associated Press, Desmond Tutu has some strong words for the Anglican Church:

"In a 1998 letter to Williams predecessor, Archbishop George Carey, Tutu wrote that he was "ashamed to be Anglican." It came after the Lambeth Conference of Bishops rejected the ordination of practicing homosexuals saying their sexual relations were "incompatible with scripture."

Tutu also said he was deeply saddened at the furor caused by the appointment of openly gay V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. "He found it little short of outrageous that church leaders should be obsessed with issues of sexuality in the face of the challenges of AIDS and global poverty," wrote Allen. "

You can read the whole story here.
I am so grateful for Desmond Tutu's courageous voice on behalf of all.

Christianity for the Rest of Us

I have just started a new book, Christianity for the Rest of Us by author and scholar Diana Butler Bass. Diana's book offers hope to neighborhood churches everywhere and points the way toward healthy, vibrant, faithful Christian community. As a young adult, I yearn for a Christianity that is rooted in tradition, yet filled with the Spirit of the living God --- a Christianity that is aware and responsive to the needs, concerns and hopes of this aching planet. Diana shares real stories from real churches all around the country seeking to live the gospel way of life --- feeding, forgiving, healing, reconciling and transforming.

For three years Diana studied centrist and progressive churches and discovered many that are "flourishing, and they are doing so without resorting to mimicking the mega-church, evangelical style." Paraphrasing one commentator, it may just be that the church so many are yearning for is just around the corner. God grants us wisdom and courage through the words of this fellow pilgrim. Here's a glimpse inside Diana's book,

"On my journey, I traveled with those who are more comfortable in the wilderness, people who were willing to explore the new terrain around them. Yet they did not travel alone. I found that in the breakdown of old villages, Christians are forming a different sort of village in congregations cross the country. Not spiritual gated communities or protected rural villages. Rather, their new kind of village is a pilgrim community embarked on a journey of rediscovering Christianity, where people can forge new faith ties in a frightening and fragmented world. For those I met, change was not always easy, and their churches were not perfect. But they embodied courage, creativity, and imagination. And risk. In reaching toward a new kind of Christianity (which is, as I hope will become obvious, actually an old kind of Christianity), they serve as a living guidebook for spiritual nomads who are seeking to find wisdom's way." Christianity for the Rest of Us, pg. 25

Monday, September 25, 2006

Methodists Against the War

In case one needed yet another reason to stand against the war in Iraq, yesterday's story about the Iraq War increasing global terrorism ought to help.

Here's an inspiring story about our Methodist brothers and sisters. I will be joining other Christians and people of faith tomorrow in a peace procession, come along.

Published on Monday, September 25, 2006 by Ekklesia / UK
Bush's Church Urges Pull-out of US Troops from Iraq
by Peter Spiegel

Methodists protest Iraq war

WASHINGTON, September 22 (UPI) United Methodist Church leaders have helped launch a week of protest and civil disobedience against the war in Iraq.

The Declaration of Peace, signed Thursday, is described as a call for nonviolent action to end the war in Iraq, United Methodist News Service reported Friday. The Washington event was one of 350 that will be staged nationwide to promote the peace initiative. The declaration calls for people to “engage in peaceful protests” if there is not a plan for troop withdrawal established and begun by Sept. 21, days before Congress adjourns for the fall elections.

More than 500 groups, almost half of them faith organizations, are involved in the declaration of peace effort, which recently retired Bishop Susan Morrison said includes “acts of moral witness to seek a new course for our country.”

By signing the peace document in front of the White House, the United Methodists and other protesters hoped not only to make a statement but also to influence congressional races in November by forcing candidates to outline where they stand on the war.

Speakers at the Washington rally, which drew about 100 people to Lafayette Square, castigated Bush, accusing him of lying about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction and launching what they called an illegal offensive.

“Our demand as a movement is to end the war now,” said Morrison, recently retired episcopal leader of the Troy Annual (regional) Conference.

The declaration calls the situation in Iraq “the U.S. war in Iraq” and describes it as “an endless fire consuming lives, resources and the fragile possibilities of peace.”

Thirty-four protesters, attempting to deliver the peace statement to Bush in an act of civil disobedience, were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. None of the United Methodist protesters participated in that portion of the day’s activity.

The Declaration of Peace initiative provides a way for the faithful to vent their anger about Iraq, Morrison said. “There are a lot of frustrated United Methodists out there who don’t know where to channel it,” she said.

United Methodist clergywomen attending the recent 2006 International Clergywomen’s Consultation in Chicago signed the declaration to “call to end this war” and made a commitment to take action to translate the call into a concrete plan for peace.

Jim Winkler, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, said that protesting the war is similar to the church’s work to promote other social movements. The church took prophetic positions on civil rights, women’s rights and nuclear disarmament before Congress acted, he noted.

“It has taken time for Congress to catch up,” Winkler said. “We may be seeing another example of that.”

Staff members of the denomination’s social advocacy agency have been meeting with congressional staff members on a weekly basis regarding policy toward Iraq. Political leaders on Capitol Hill have been divided on the Bush administration’s policy, with some calling for a timetable for withdrawal and others urging a staying of the course.

“You see more and more Republicans who are uncomfortable with the position of ‘stay the course,’” said Mark Harrison, director of the board’s Peace with Justice program.
But the White House asserts that Iraq would collapse if U.S. troops leave prematurely, potentially leading to a full-blown civil war.

United Methodist leaders argue that the long insurgency in Iraq, which has resulted in the deaths of thousands Americans and Iraqis, is proof that U.S. involvement is misguided.
“Iraq is in a civil war right now because we’re there,” Winkler said.

Morrison agreed. “We just exacerbate what’s going on.” She disputed critics who say that war protesters undermine U.S. troops and sap their morale.

“We care deeply about the troops,” she said. “We’re proud of their commitment. We want them safe. We want them home.”

Within individual United Methodist congregations, however, members may not agree with the way the anti-war movement is articulating its opposition.

Differences of opinion must be respected, said the Rev. Dean Snyder, senior minister of Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington. Such divisions have come up throughout Christian history.

“It’s part of our discernment process of truth,” he said. “But that does not change the fact that church leaders are put in positions of prophetic responsibility.”

Friday, September 22, 2006

Progressive Evangelicals

I've been commenting occassionally on the God's Politics Blog, an exciting new blog for Christians to discuss faith and politics led by Jim Wallis and Sojourners. Wallis and Sojourners are doing so much to help end the monologue of the religious right. Here's my latest comment with links to more information. You can watch the segment on YouTube.

I am so grateful that Jim Wallis and Sojourners are getting wider exposure. The segment on the CBS Evening News last night was just that, a segment. I thought Jim sounded strong and inviting. Let's make sure that this kind of coverage of evangelical progressives continues -- and that more progressive Christian voices are amplified in the press such as Diana Butler Bass, Shane Claiborne, Brian McLaren, Alan Jones, Michael Battle, Sister Helen Prejean, Desmond Tutu and Ched Myers.

For the monologue to be over -- we all need to speak up online, in our churches, and in our communities. There are many people especially in rural America (I was born and raised in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia) who don't realize that there are progressive evangelical Christians. So even short segments in the media like the one last night make a difference.

There have been progressive Christians throughout history --- St. Francis of Assisi was hardly a hard-hearted conservative, nor was Dorothy Day in the 20th century. St. Francis was a pacifist who refused to support the crusades and went on a peace mission to meet with the "enemy." Dorothy Day was a strong supporter of worker rights and critic of the military industrial complex. Both were sincere Christians who believed in the Bible, in the creeds, and believed that Jesus wanted followers of his way of life not just worshippers.

Also Democrats have spoken about their faith and how it shapes public policy for a long time. Robert F. Kennedy was very articulate about how faith called us to care for the least of these. FDR's New Deal was organized by people of faith like Episcopalian Frances Perkins, also the first woman on a president's cabinet. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright recently spoke about her faith at Virginia Theological Seminary and has written a book about faith and politics. We progressive Christians need to remember our history and our heros -- the Saints of God who have spoken out in every generation for justice, peace and human dignity.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Church Targeted for Anti-War Sermon

All Saints, a progressive Christian Church in Pasadena, California is continuing to be a target of the IRS for a sermon that challenged the President about the war in Iraq. Throughout the Bible the people of God are called to resist Empire and to endure the consequences for doing so. I am grateful for the witness of All Saint's, lets keep them in our prayers and hope that more faith communities will risk speaking the truth in love.

Here's how one story in the LA Times describes last Sunday's sermon by the Reverend Ed Bacon,

Bacon told the congregation that, although he recognized that the church could not endorse or oppose a political candidate, neither could it remain silent in the face of "dehumanization, injustice and violence." "History is shamefully littered with the moral bankruptcy of people who were Christian in name but not behavior," Bacon said, citing indifference by some Christians to slavery and the Holocaust. "Neutrality and silence in the face of oppression always aids the oppressor," he said. When he was done, Bacon received a minutelong standing ovation.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

future church with ancient faith

My good friend Mary tonight told me a little bit about visiting Church of the Apostles, a faith community in Seattle that is part of the new monastic movement. Here's a bit from the community's website:

CHURCH OF THE APOSTLES is a future church with an ancient faith... in the story of jesus, we have glimpsed god's future and know that "thiscouldchangeeverything." so our purpose is to helpgodchangeeverything, by participating in god's future within today's culture and our local zipcode, in intentional community around jesus christ. the future is not something we manufacture, and community is not something we can coerce you into, but both are works of the spirit to which god calls you. so as god calls you, we welcome you to join us in helpinggodchangeeverything and exploring god's future among friends.

Check out more here & in an article in the Seattle Times here.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

War Crimes & Crimes Against Humanity

The Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration released its final verdict yesterday. Read more about this here.

Read the verdict here.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Desmond Tutu should be on T.V. all the time

I have been wondering for a long time why people like Desmond Tutu aren't given prime-time television shows. There should be a whole television network dedicated to the spiritual pursuit of global peace and justice. In the meantime, please read the following by Desmond Tutu on the global arms trade.

The Modern Successor to the Slave Trade
No longer should the peace business be undermined by the arms business
by Desmond Tutu

For many years, I've been involved in the peace business, doing what I can to help people overcome their differences. In doing so, I've also learnt a lot about the business of war: the arms trade. In my opinion it is the modern slave trade. It is an industry out of control: every day more than 1,000 people are killed by conventional weapons. The vast majority of those people are innocent men, women and children.
Continue reading this article by clicking here.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Gandhi and 9-11

According to Tobias Winright, an ethics teacher in St. Louis,
"On Sept. 11 Americans will remember the fifth anniversary of the nightmarish terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Probably unbeknownst to many, however, is that Sept. 11 also marks, according to the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, the 100th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's first public act of civil disobedience." Read more of this article here.

Walter Wink has been writing for a long time about the nonviolence of Jesus.

There's a strong piece on terrorism and nonviolence here.

Click here for more on M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Moving Music

I'm getting really into the music of Sufjan Stevens --- not only does this guy's music weave in spiritual themes, his soft voice and ecclectic instruments give one the feeling of being embraced. Sojourner's Magazine recently did a story about the rising movement of "post-punk, justice-seeking, Jesus-following musicians" of which Sufjan Stevens is considered part. Tikkun has a review of Sufjan's work, here.

For a taste of Sufjan Stevens sound, please check out a tribute piece that he did and that was featured on NPR.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Read Ray McGovern

Ever since yesterday's speech by President Bush on secret prisons and torture I have been waiting eagerly for a response from a teacher and friend of mine, Ray McGovern. Ray is a sincere Christian and a former CIA analyst. Ray's voice is one that America needs to be listening to, please read his strong words below.

The Torturer's Apprentice
By Ray McGovern

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer, then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

Addressing the use of torture Wednesday, President George W. Bush played to the baser instincts of Americans as he strained to turn his violation of national and international law into Exhibit A on how “tough” he is on terrorists. His tour de force brought to mind the charge the Athenians leveled at Socrates—making the worse case appear the better. Bush’s remarks made it abundantly clear, though, that he is not about to take the hemlock.

As the fifth anniversary of 9/11 approaches and with the midterm elections just two months away, the president's speechwriters succeeded in making a silk purse out of the sow’s ear of torture. The artful offensive will succeed if—but only if—the mainstream media is as cowed, and the American people as dumb, as the president thinks they are. Arguably a war criminal under international law and a capital-crime felon under U.S. criminal law, Bush’s legal jeopardy is even clearer than when he went AWOL during the Vietnam War. And this time, his father will not be able to fix it.

Bush in jeopardy? Yes. The issue is torture, which George W. Bush authorized in a Feb. 7, 2002, memorandum in contravention both of the Geneva Accords and 18 U.S. Code 2441, the War Crimes Act that incorporates the Geneva provisions into the federal criminal code which was approved by a Republican-led Congress in 1996. Heeding the advice of Vice President Dick Cheney’s counsel, David Addington, then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, the president officially opened the door to torture in that memorandum. His remarks yesterday reflect the determination of Cheney and Bush to keep that door open and accuse those who would close it of being "soft on terrorists."

The administration released that damning memorandum in the spring of 2004 after the photos of torture at Abu Graib were published. It provided the basis for talking points that the president wanted “humane” treatment for captured al-Qaida and Taliban individuals. And—surprise, surprise— mainstream journalists like those of The New York Times swallowed the bait, clinging safely to the talking points and missing altogether Bush’s remarkable claim that “military necessity” trumps humane treatment. That assertion, over the president’s signature, provided the gaping loophole through which Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and then-CIA Director George Tenet drove the Mack truck of officially sanctioned torture.
Using the arguments adduced by the Addington/Gonzales/Bybee team, Bush’s 2002 memo made the point that the bedrock provision of Geneva—common Article 3—does not apply to al-Qaida or Taliban detainees, but that the U.S. would “continue to treat detainees humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity , in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva.” (Emphasis added.)

Sounding very much like Mafia lawyers, the president’s legal troika felt it necessary to warn him that playing fast and loose with the U.S. War Crimes Act (Section 2441) could conceivably come back to haunt him. The bizarre passage that follows is the best they could offer in terms of reassurance:

It is difficult to predict the motives of prosecutors and independent counsels who may in the future decide to pursue unwarranted charges based on Section 2441. Your determination would create a reasonable basis in law that Section 2441 does not apply, which would provide a solid defense to any future prosecution.

While the imaginative lawyering of Addington (now Cheney’s chief of staff), Gonzales (now Attorney General), and Bybee (now a federal judge) may have qualified for a presidential “heck-of-a-job” at the time, Bush is learning the hard way that, while sycophants are fun to have around, they can do a president in. Between the lines of Bush’s rhetoric yesterday lies belated acknowledgement that his decision to condone the torture of al-Qaida and Taliban captives is now back to haunt him—big time.

The Supreme Court decision on Hamdam v. Rumsfeld , announced on June 29, 2006, stripped the president of the magic suit of clothes approved by his courtiers when it found the “military tribunals” invented by the Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal to try terrorists illegal. The Court rejected the artifice of “unitary executive power” used by the Bush administration to “justify” practices like torture, indefinite detention without judicial process, and warrantless eavesdropping. In other words, the Supreme Court of the United States reaffirmed that ours should be a government of laws, not of the caprice of the vice president or president. And in condoning torture, they are outlaws.

The Defense Rests Not
The president’s performance yesterday reflects the time-honored adage that the best defense is an aggressive offense—and especially with a mere two months before the midterm elections. Bush devoted fully half of his speech to cops-and-robbers examples, none of them persuasive, of how “tough” interrogation techniques have yielded information that prevented all manner of catastrophe. Someone in the White House apparently forgot to tell the Army, for the head of Army intelligence, Lt. Gen. John Kimmons, sang from a very different script at a Pentagon briefing yesterday, as he explained why the new Army manual for interrogation is in sync with Geneva. Conceding past “transgressions and mistakes,” Kimmons said:
No good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices. I think history tells us that. I think the empirical evidence of the last five years, hard years, tells us that.
Grabbing the headlines today is the fact that Bush has admitted that the CIA has taken high-value captives to prisons abroad for interrogation using “tough” techniques. More telling is the fact that CIA interrogators are not bound by the strictures of the new Army field manual, and that the president is determined to maintain in place detention centers where CIA interrogators can ply their trade at his bequest.

The president brags about how his government “changed its policies,” giving intelligence personnel “the tools they need” to fight terrorists, and makes it clear that the CIA was given permission to use “an alternative set of procedures.” He said he could not describe the specific methods used, “but I can say the procedures were tough.” The alumni of this school of hard knocks are now on their way to Guantanamo, but Bush made it clear that he wanted to keep the schools open for incoming students.

Acknowledging that other terrorists are waiting in line to take the place of captured leaders, the president made it clear that he wants the “CIA program” for interrogating advanced placement terrorists to continue. Bush conceded that, after the Hamdan decision, “some believe” that intelligence personnel “could now be at risk of prosecution under the War Crimes Act—simply for doing their jobs in a thorough and professional way.” So he is asking Congress to pass legislation squaring the circle; that even while using “alternative” procedures, CIA personnel can be said to be in compliance with common Article 3 of Geneva. (The not-so-hidden threat, of course, is the virtual certainty that any member of Congress opposing this kind of legerdemain will be branded soft on terrorism in the weeks leading up to the November election.)
In a bizarre twist, the retroactive nature of this legislation, which the president said “ought to be the top priority” over the next several weeks, would hold Bush himself harmless, at least under the U.S. criminal statute, as well as intelligence practitioners of “alternative” procedures.

And so the stage is set. There is one more Bush speech to go on this general theme. It’s a safe bet that the next one will present an equally impassioned defense of warrantless eavesdropping on Americans, branded unconstitutional and illegal by Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit because it violates the Fourth Amendment and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Sen. Arlen Specter, R- Pa., who initially called that activity extralegal, has now come full circle and drafted legislation that would hold harmless the president and others involved in that program—and, again, retroactively. It is hard to tell what brought Specter 180 degrees around; not to be ruled out is the kind of “alternative procedure” employed so successfully by former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who was the inadvertent catalyst for the FISA law.


Is there no one to hold our leaders to account? The Bush Crimes Commission, a grassroots citizens’ initiative determined not to follow the example of the obedient, passive Germans of the 1930s, has taken testimony on torture and other key issues to establish whether President Bush is guilty of war crimes. Testimony was taken in October 2005 and January 2006, indictments have been brought and served on the White House, and the judges will issue their verdict on Sept. 13 in Washington. (Full disclosure: I am proud to have taken part in the proceedings of the Bush Crimes Commission.) Join us next week.

The above article was first published at:

Please share Ray McGovern's voice with others.

Remembering God's Dream

A profound Christian teacher, speaker, author and leader died on September 1. Verna Dozier inspired and challenged people to not simply worship Jesus but to follow him. Many of my spiritual mentors were influenced by Verna Dozier and while I never personally met her or heard her speak, Dozier's books have nurtured and supported my journey. Please read more about Verna Dozier, be inspired by her theology and seek, as she did, to be committed to the dream of God.

Here's a quote from Verna Dozier that was shared recently through the Church of the Savior's Inward/Outward daily e-mail newsletter:

"We have lost the capacity to dream great dreams. We reduce God to the personal, private, ’spiritual’ sphere of our lives, and ministry to personal, private, ’spiritual’ acts - a good deed here, a good deed there, a cup of cold water here, a loaf of freshly baked bread there, a prison visit here, a hospital call there, a night in a shelter here, a time with a troubled friend there. We see no need to challenge the systems that make these ‘ministries’ necessary.
The call to ministry is the call to be a citizen of the kingdom of God in a new way, the daring, free, accepting, compassionate way Jesus modeled. It means being bound by no yesterday, fearing no tomorrow, drawing no lines between friend and foe, the acceptable ones and the outcasts. Ministry is commitment to the dream of God."
Source: The Dream of God

For more on this inspiring person please visit the Episcopal Diocese of Washington's blog where you will find links to numerous articles about Dozier and quotes from many who have been influenced by her life and faith.