Sunday, August 26, 2007

along the way

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to spend time with colleagues from Grace Cathedral at the Friends of Sabeel Regional Conference in Berkeley. What an amazing gathering of articulate voices for justice and peace in Palestine/Israel. The conference's theme "Breaking Down the Wall of Silence: Voices We Need to Hear" describes well what took place at St. John's Presbyterian Church. I was most grateful to hear Mubarak Awad, Palestinian founder of Nonviolence International, Cindy and Craig Corrie (parents of martyred peace activist Rachel Corrie, Huwaida Arraf, co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement, and Anna Baltzer, a Jewish American scholar and peace activist. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that someone I had been introduced to earlier this week at Martin de Porres House of Hospitality, Chris Brown, was among the panelists connecting the nonviolent movement for Palestine with the African American experience and the movement to end Apartheid in South Africa. This was a very moving and hopeful gathering that reminded us all how very important a just and peaceful resolution to Palestinian/Israeli situation is to the future of this planet. An author and scholar that I would highly recommend to anyone interested in learning more about what is happening and what can be done both locally and internationally is Stephen Zunes. I have been reading the excellent work of Professor Zunes since I was a student at Virginia Theological Seminary (on regarding the build up to the war in Iraq. Zunes responded almost immediately and regularly to the numerous false and twisted assertions made by the Bush Administration regarding weapons of mass destruction. I was delighted to meet him at the conference yesterday, purchase his book "Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism" and learn that he is the son of an Episcopal priest.

Serendipitously, I have begun communicating via social networking sites and web chat with Palestinian friends made many years ago while attending a youth course at St. George's College in Jerusalem. My prayer is that these newly developing and rekindled connections will help stimulate action both personal and collective for peace. Recalling the words of Nelson Mandela, "education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world," may we each seek to educate ourselves and our communities about what is happening around the world and consider how we might help bring real progressive change for all.

To learn more about Sabeel, an ecumenical liberation theology center in Jerusalem please click here. Sabeel is an Arabic word for way, spring, or channel.

The photos and the graphic below are from Jewish American scholar and activist Anna Baltzer's website.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Faith & Nonviolence

We don't get cable so I did not get to tune into the CNN miniseries called "God's Warriors" although I did get to view a few web videos. As one who believes (along with many New Testament scholars and Christian theologians) that Jesus taught and practiced nonviolence I am always troubled when the violent among us are given more space to express their views than those who choose the narrow path of peace. This public discussion is so important and we need more interfaith engagement not less. There are three excellent posts over at God's Politics that engage the intersection of faith and violence, please check them out here, here and here. One is about the latest Bourne film, which Matt and I both thought raised valuable questions. As Gareth Higgins author of the Bourne piece writes,

The Bourne Ultimatum provocatively reminds us that an uncritical approach to, for instance, defense, or economics, or prison, or immigration policy involves ceding ownership of one's life to "the authorities"; doing it "just because they say so." All too often, refusing to ask questions about the status quo only serves to keep injustice in its perfect equilibirum. Unthinking patriotism or ideology of the kind that allows secret sins – whether of deceit, or conspiracy, or killing - to be carried out in our name because "the country" depends on it meets its match in Jason Bourne.

On a related matter I am very grateful that Virginia Senator John Warner, a fellow Episcopalian has stood up and called for troop withdrawals from Iraq. This is significant in large part because Warner is a Republican. May more people of both parties learn from his example.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Power to the Peaceful

For Bay Area people, here's something to look forward to...

I've been a fan of the Indigo Girls for a long time and am excited about hearing more from Michael Franti, who is organizing this amazing event in Golden Gate Park. A few years ago, one of the Indigo Girls, Emily Saliers spoke (and sang) with her Dad at Washington National Cathedral. You can check that out here.

latest sermon

Click here to listen to my most recent sermon.

Click here for this past Sunday's Gospel text.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

blowing in the wind

It has taken me a little while to get back to the blog after the week away. Beginning with the sounds of a "Jesus Boot Camp" outside our tent (we were literally surrounded by screaming kids in camouflage our first morning at the campground), somewhere in the middle we visited my brother in L.A. and it all ended with Matt on stage with Rufus Wainwright!

Our brief visit to the L.A. Catholic Worker was wonderful, we want to return there for a longer visit sometime. Everyone was very welcoming to us and we had the chance to view Father John Dear's documentary "The Narrow Path" with the summer interns. The film is definitely worth watching if you have the opportunity. Jeff, a long time member of the LA Catholic Worker whom we met briefly is in jail right now for participating in an all night sit-in encouraging a House member to stop funding the war. Please join us in praying with him as he "is dedicating his jail time to the memory of the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki." After the film Matt and I linked up with my seminary friend Rachel and then Christopher led us to Venice Beach for dinner. (The photo below is of Christopher, me, and Matt left to right)

There's been a lot to blog about this week, but the story below was particularly frustrating to me revealing the ongoing tension between certain forms of Christianity and the struggle to treat all people with dignity, respect and love.

Church Cancels Memorial for Gay Navy Vet

ARLINGTON, Texas — A megachurch canceled a memorial service for a Navy veteran 24 hours before it was to start because the deceased was gay.

Officials at the nondenominational High Point Church knew that Cecil Howard Sinclair was gay when they offered to host his service, said his sister, Kathleen Wright. But after his obituary listed his life partner as one of his survivors, she said, it was called off.

"It's a slap in the face. It's like, 'Oh, we're sorry he died, but he's gay so we can't help you,'" she said Friday.

Wright said High Point offered to hold the service for Sinclair because their brother is a janitor there. Sinclair, who served in the first Gulf War, died Monday at age 46 from an infection after surgery to prepare him for a heart transplant.

Here's the full story.

If this mega church's actions make you "mega" frustrated too I encourage you to join me in 1) praying for everyone involved, especially those who are grieving 2) sending an email to the pastor encouraging him to publicly apologize and 3) sharing this story with others.

The recent LGBT Presidential Forum hosted by the Human Rights Campaign and attended by most of the Democratic candidates was a sign of hope this week that things are going to change for the better in this country for all, including megachurches. If God can change Paul from being the chief persecutor of Christians to the church's leading evangelist, God can change even the most anti-gay churches and pastors into places and people of blessing, acceptance, and love.

THIS JUST IN: I just received an email from Susan Russell saying, "Lutherans to allow pastors in gay relationships". AWESOME! Here's the story.