Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Big Fat Face of Intelligent Design

“The fundies want it all taught in a science class, but this will be a nice slap in their big fat face by teaching it as a religious studies class under the category ‘mythology.’”
- Professor Paul Mirecki
Chairperson, Department of Religious Studies, University of Kansas

“I have assured the provost of the university that I will teach the course … as a serious academic subject and in a manner that respects all points of view.”
- Professor Mirecki, in his subsequent apology for the remarks above

“…it is especially appropriate that intelligent design and creationism be treated as academic subjects in a university-level religious studies class.”
- David Shulenburger
Provost, University of Kansas

Just the latest from the state of Kansas, sports fans! (A reminder: I live in Missouri.) Kansas’s new slogan is, “As big as you think.” And if this is an example of how big they think, it must be a very small state, indeed. ;) The story in the Kansas City Star this morning was accompanied by a kick-butt column by Mike Hendricks, who gets the award for the quip of the day:
“But as everyone knows, spite is never an accepted rationale for offering a college course, except those math courses that English majors are required to take.” Nice one!

As far as I can tell, at first Mirecki wanted to teach ID as a “special topic in religion” in the realm of mythology out of spite, in order to make a political statement and make a jab, er…I mean “slap” at religious fundamentalists in his state. Specifically, a “slap in their big fat face.” (Sidebar: Who says things like “big fat face” and they’re not in junior high school?) But now that his email got into the public discourse, he is back-tracking as fast as possible.

Now he and the provost are rushing to claim that intelligent design is actually a serious academic subject, something it most definitely is not. It is an article of faith, and a weak one, at that. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t intelligent design based on being UNable to explain what you see? As in, “Golly, that amoeba is complicated; I’ll never be able to explain that; someone smarter than me must have designed it; I know – let’s call it an ‘intelligent designer.’” Then we decide if this intelligent designer exists and who s/he is based on our faith experience. That’s pretty much it, isn’t it?

And aren’t academic subjects, on the other hand, based on being ABLE to explain what you see? As in, “Golly, that amoeba is complicated; let’s figure out a way we might be able to explain how it works.” Then you look at it closely and over time, learning more and more about it by observing it. What is “academic” about shrugging your shoulders and saying, “I dunno” when confronted by life’s most difficult questions?

And think about it, what is even “faithful” about such an approach? Should we really, created in the image of God as we are, think that anything too complex for our minds to grasp is an unexplainable phenomenon that only God can know? Another option might be to put our God-given intellectual capacity to good use by diving deeply into the questions of life, death, and the natural world. Quoting someone famous whose name I can't remember, “I can’t believe that God designed a human being with a mind we’re not supposed to use.”

Contemplating the idea that God created the world is a serious academic endeavor; and at the same time it is a rigorous discipline of faith. But Intelligent Design Theory seems to me to reduce the holy power of the Creator of the cosmos to a watered down, “children’s sermon” answer to a profound and challenging question. Intelligent Design is bad theology, because it minimizes the human capacity for curiosity and neglects the profound drive to discover meaning in the midst of the milieu of life.

Clearly, there are things about life that are outside of Darwin’s realm – like sunsets, Mozart, or being ticklish. And also, there are things about life Intelligent Design cannot explain – think of the appendix, racism, or phlegm. I guess I’m trying to say that life is complicated, and neither science nor religion can answer all of our questions. So why do we waste so much energy and time trying to keep them separate?

Anyone who tries ought to be slapped in their big fat face!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Why Advent

I find myself coming at Advent differently than I ever have before. I have always thought about it as four weeks of "getting ready for Christmas." Advent was decorating, shopping, partying, going to concerts and pageants, and so forth - always a means toward the end of Christmas Day. Now I am wondering just how faithful that is.

Firstly, thinking about Advent that way reduces it to the same level as going to the mall to sit on Santa's lap. It is just one more thing to do between Thanksgiving Day and December 25th. We go shopping; we look at the lights; we do Advent stuff at church; we bake cookies; we go over to the Jones's for egg nog, etc. Lighting that funny horizontal wreath in front of the sanctuary is just something else on the pre-Christmas to-do list.

Secondly, that approach to Advent presumes the absence of Christ, at least temporarily. If we spend these four weeks getting ready for Jesus to arrive, it begs the question, "Where is he now?" Does he sort of slip away just after Christ the King Sunday and show up again at the Christmas Eve service? How do we explain theologically our treatment of this holy season every single year? And are we supposed to, on December the 26th, stop preparing for Jesus to come into our lives? After all, he has arrived now. What next?

And finally, thinking of Advent as mere Christmas prep time does not allow followers of Christ to enter into the spiritual disciplines appropriate to the season, as is frequently done during Lent. You never hear the question, "What are you giving up for Advent?" floating around church hallways. This should be a time of deep spiritual reflection and prayer, purposeful study of the scriptures, and renewed dedication to do what is pleasing in God's sight, "to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God."

So this Advent, I am doing more than just get ready for Christmas. I am going to ask myself (and by extension taking my congregation along with me), "What do I expect of God?" Four weeks of Advent, so four expectations: STRENGTH, COMFORT, JUSTICE, and FAITHFULNESS. I intend to dwell here for a while. Each one of these areas is going to be a sermon. (If you would like, you can read transcriptions of my sermons on the website of my remarkable congreation, though we are just a wee bit behind in posting them.) I am calling the series "Unseasonable Expectations."

Furthermore, I think Christians ought to pretty much just live in Advent mode all year round. I mean, are we not supposed to be expecting Christ to show up all the time? The incarnation means that God is always coming, and always present - all at the same time! I like to say that "eternity" not only has no end, it also has no beginning. Saying that God is eternal means that God has always been, is fully now, and is evermore just about to arrive. And that is what Advent is.

Well, that and the four weeks of getting ready for Christmas, too!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Happy Holiday

My family and I have been away for Thanksgiving, and just got back last night. We traveled up to Chicago to be with my wife's family for the holiday. It was a fine time, and a memorable one.

- We tried the Holiday Pack from Jones Soda, which features carbonated beverages flavored like Brussels Sprout with Prosciutto, Cranberry Sauce, Turkey & Gravy, Wild Herb Stuffing, and Pumpkin Pie. It was all my brother-in-law Nathan's idea, and let me tell you - it was nasty! There is no way anyone should ever be tempted to taste this swill. Okay, maybe the Cranberry Sauce was pretty tasty. As for the rest, I have decided I prefer Thanksgiving dinner in solid form.

- We had a wonderful meal (after the after-taste of Jones Soda was gone) with everything you could possibly think of for Thanksgiving dinner. Erin's mom Diane went above and beyond with the preparations. Delicious and plentiful!

- We had a fantastic time of conversation and connection with family, gathered from the four corners of our lives for a few moments of love and gratitude. Got to play with my beautiful neice Halle, my wonderful nephew Reid, and my adorable new baby nephew Ryan. How fun was that!

- We swam in the hotel pool. It was below freezing outside. There was a hot tub. :)

- Erin, her brother Micah, his wife Laura, and I saw the fourth Harry Potter movie. A real treat for the eyes with GREAT special effects! Music was not so good. Story line moves right along, but a lot of depth that you get from reading the book was glossed over or omitted. Though the whole "coming of age" theme is done very nicely. Loads of teenager angst throughout.

- Finally and most importantly, this holiday I was reminded again about why my wife and children are the most important people in the world. I was reminded that "the greatest thing we'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return." I was reminded that being a family is the most wonderful, frustrating, rewarding, upsetting, joyous, painful, and satisfying thing to be in the whole wide world.

Thank you God, for the chance to be a family.

Monday, November 21, 2005

A Landmark of Sorts

Hey, I just noticed that my little counter thingy at the bottom of my web page just rolled over 10,000. Huh. What do you know? I think I'll throw a party :)

Here's the Link ...

... to the blog I referred to last week. The article did not list the address for Frank Santoro's journey through cancer. Click here to read some remarkable stuff. And thanks for the link, Rev.

You Know, Y'all May Be Right

Two things about my previous post about which I have had time to reflect with the help of my wife, mother, and assorted other commenters.

1) I should never have introduced the heavily weighted words "liberal" and "conservative" into the discussion. Truthfully, it was just kind of my introduction to the post, and wasn't the primary theme. I should have just started by saying, "I don't get it." And then just told the story.

2) I need to be sensitive about blogging too personally when it comes to members of my remarkable congregation. I was really just trying to convey my utter beffudlement, not to pass any kind of judgement. Though I take full credit for the emotions and opinions expressed in this blog as my own personal feelings and thoughts, I also know that I must take care.

So I am sorry that I did not heed my own advice and avoid the nasty labels I used, and I am sorry if anyone is in any way offended by my befuddlement. I love the bazaar ladies! They are fantastic women, faithful disciples of Jesus, pillars of the church, and so forth. I wrote that post in a fit of frustration, and it usually doesn't work out so pretty good when I do that. My fault, everyone! Can I get a little grace?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Can't Figure This One Out: A Bizaare Bazaar

I am liberal. Granted.

I find it difficult to agree with more conservative perspectives. Granted. But I usually understand conservative perspectives, even when I do not agree with them. But try as I might, I just don't get this one.

There is a group in my congregation who has over $5,000.oo to spend. They make money at an annual craft bazaar that they then use to purchase something for the church. This year, they are purchasing ... are you ready for this? ... a pre-lit artificial Christmas tree. Cost = $30.00.

Let me repeat the figures, just to make sure you are with me. They have over $5,000.00 in their bank account and they are deciding to spend $30 of it to buy an artificial Christmas tree. (Incidentally, the tree is designated to be used to display ornaments in next year's craft bazaar. Nice, huh?)

The church building currently has four bathrooms in need of tile, one bathroom that needs stall dividers, the main lobby area needs new carpet, the office needs a new copy machine, the library sure could use a new set of Bible commentaries, two classrooms are in need of new furniture, it would be great to have some new artwork on the lobby walls, we would like to have three more computers networked, yada yada and yada. ...

They bought a Christmas tree (for themselves). They have $5,000.00 in the bank. I don't get it. Surely this isn't typical financial conservatism, is it? There must be something else going on. They made the crafts in order to make the money so that it could be spent on something for the church, didn't they? They said they didn't make any other purchases because they didn't know the exact cost of some of the things we need, and so they didn't want to give any of their money toward them. (The commentary set, of which the exact cost was known, was voted down in a secret ballot vote and no explanation was offered.) Why not say that they would like to give $500.00 toward the cost of the bathroom tile, for example? Then if that doesn't cover it, they could decide to spend a little more, perhaps?

Let's talk a little stewardship, here. Let's talk a little extravagant generosity. These people would ask God for a receipt after offering the first fruits of all they possess.

"Uh, yes, Jesus, quick question - how much exactly will my discipleship cost? I want to know for sure before I decide if I'm going to make that kind of commitment or not. After all, its my life and I can decide to do with it as I please." And while that is certainly true, there is something intrinsically radical about being grasped by the presence of the living Christ that precludes any notion of careful deliberation. There is nothing conservative about discipleship.

Sigh. I know, I know. We are going to be just fine without the bazaar women's $5,000.00. They will spend it when they are damn good and ready to spend it, I am sure. I'm sure I'm just going overboard as usual. But sitting there in the "meeting" at which they made their decisions was one of the most bizaare experiences I have had recently. It really was a bizaare bazaar.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Enter the Rainbow Makes News - With TYPO

Hey! Imagine my surprise when I saw my picture on the front page of the Missouri Conference Review this week! (A picture that features my big, round old glasses and my hair at a very awkward length, I might add.) Enter the Rainbow was featured in an article about blogging that was in the newspaper of the Missouri Annual Conference. You can read a .pdf version of the paper by clicking here.

AND BE SURE TO NOTE THE TYPOGRAPHICAL ERROR IN THE WORST POSSIBLE PLACE - THE ADDRESS OF MY BLOG!!!!! Apparently the article wants us to Enter the Reainbow, rather than the Rainbow. Problem with typos in website addresses is, your computer can't just read past the mistake and go ahead and take you to the correct website. It pretty much just looks agog at you and says "Duh ... I never heard of that one before. Here, let's go to this pretty error page, instead!"

The article also talks about the blogs of my friend Becky, a probationary elder from Sedalia now living in England named Sarah Hamilton, and Susan Cox-Johnson, one of Missouri's District Superintendents. There is also a very wonderful article Frank Santoro, who blogged about his journey through cancer.

This is weird, all this new attention paid to the blogosphere - there was recently a feature article about Shane Raynor in the national edition of the United Methodist Review, now at our conference level there is a front page story about blogging. It makes me wonder about what having the attention of the old school print media does to (or for) blogs.

Perhaps newspaper attention will begin to make the blogosphere more "mainstream." Then I've gotta ask, "Is that a good thing?" Maybe bloggers are happier with that cutting edge status. On the other hand, having articles about blogs in newspapers is likely to boost the number of readers that we get. OF COURSE, THAT WOULD BE TRUE ONLY IF THE PAPER GETS THE BLOG ADDRESS CORRECT IN THE ARTICLE. But more readers mean more comments - and bloggers do love comments!

One thing is sure, as blogging has grown and changed over this brief time span, a true sense of community has formed, and continues to form. It is a community unlike anything I have ever experienced before. And as I have always said, though it will never replace a face to face conversation over a cup of coffee, blogging really does enhance the way we communicate with one another.

So here I am, blogging about a newspaper article about blogging. I can only hope that the next edition of the Missouri Conference Review prints an address correction in big, bold, print right on the banner headline of the front page! ;)

Monday, November 14, 2005

Adventure People, Where Are You?

Do you remember these? I sure do! Fisher Price "Adventure People." I had hours upon hours of creative, non-violent, screenless fun as a kid playing with these sets. I recently found a website that has pictures of all of them. Click here to reminisce.

Am I guilty of a 34 year old's nostalgia? Am I remebering these toys with rose-colored glasses on? I don't think there is anything even remotely as fun, imagination-engaging, and accessible as these wonderful playsets in today's toy market. With a four-year-old and a seven-year-old and Christmas approaching, I am more familiar with today's toy market than I once was. It is not a pretty sight.

With the Adventure People, there were no silly characters. No mind-numbing screens. No attention span shortening computer images. Just people having whatever adventures I decided they would have today.

My safari family, Jim, Mom, Jenny, and Johnny, interacted very nicely with my Star Wars figures, yet they were inherently special to me. They weren't meaningful because they were connected to a movie, a video game, or a Madison Avenue marketing scheme. I just loved the toy itself.

If there is ANYTHING remotely like it on store shelves today, please guide me to it. I have some Christmas shopping to do.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Pat Robertson, Again

Pat Robertson has taken one more step toward making the Church an irrelevant joke. Click here if you want to sigh too deeply for words.

Do people actually still listen to this guy?

You Must Be This Tall to Ride This Church

You know those signs at the front of the roller coaster line? The ones that have a cartoon character holding out his arm and if you can walk under the arm you cannot ride the ride? I remember once my daughter scraped the underside of the sign and was not allowed on the ride. Literally, had she been wearing a different pair of shoes, she would have made it! But the standard was rigid. For good reason, too. Her safety was at stake.

We get into trouble, however, when we attempt to apply such rigid standards to other situations. Take public schools, for instance. The governor of Missouri, Matt Blunt, wants to make a blanket requirement that 65% of the money in each school district is spent in the classroom. Sounds okay as an idea, huh? But then I read that some really excellent school districts are not close to that level. I remember reading that Liberty school district spends about 58% of its money in the classroom, and it is one of the best in the state. To require Liberty to raise their in classroom spending to 65% would require the reduction of some of the other wonderful things they are currently funding - things like arts, sports, or professional clubs, perhaps.

Or take church membership, as another example. There are many who want to put really high standards on becoming a member of a church. For example, you must attend a certain percentage of worship services, or give a certain percentage of your income, or serve in a certain number of outreach opportunities per year, or confess particular sins, etc. These, among other things, are some of the standards that some churches require in order for someone to be a full member. If you cannot agree to meet the standards, you cannot be a member of the church. And I certainly agree that supporting your church with your prayers, presence, gifts, and service, as well as confessing your sin before God, are desirable activities for church members.

But do we go too far? When we assign rigid standards to becoming a church member, what have we done to the meaning of membership? Have we not changed church into something to which we belong rather than something that we are?

If you start a club, you can set your own standards for membership - high sign, secret handshake, whatever. Problem is, church is not a club. People do not "belong to" the church; people ARE the church. Just like that old Sunday School song says - "We are the church together." Church membership is not like joining a club, not a status symbol, not an item on one's resume, not access to a set of privileges denied to non-members. To set rigid standards on church membership is to demean the church by making it just one more club among many.

"High standard" churches tend to have a lot of people in them, however. Surely this fact would tend to lead us toward imposition of such rigid expectations for membership. Yes, if you are using numerical growth as your only assessment tool for "success." It is difficult to measure faithfulness, however. And to say that large membership churches are the only ones that are being faithful is just not truthful, and a gross oversimplification of reality. An incarnate relationship that invokes the presence of Christ requires only 2 or 3 to gather in his name.

The "mystic, sweet communion" that is the Church of Jesus Christ is so much more than artificially imposed standards can reflect. Anywhere, anytime, any group gathers in the name of Christ Jesus, there is the church. To say anything else, it seems to me, is shoddy ecclesiology. Let's take down the "You Must Be This Tall..." signs at our church doorways and start being the church again!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

What Could Be Better...

... than a four-year-old boy in the middle of a room full of building blocks?

Monday, November 07, 2005

More of the Gospel According to Cori

I know that my daughter must be a mystic. I'm pretty sure she has some kind of special connection to the Divine, anyway. Cori is seven years old and has a way of saying things that brings God to the surface more readily that almost anyone else I know.

Her latest, "No one is different than everybody."

Here is the context: Cori noticed that I had scratched out the United Methodist slogan, "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors," from my car's bumper sticker and written, "It's the thought that counts" instead. (Say what you will about my own little act of passive/aggressive protest, it's not the point of this post!) Cori then asked my wife Erin why I had done this.

Erin replied, "Because Daddy was sad and angry about a United Methodist pastor in Virginia not letting someone be a member of the church because he was different." Erin chose her words carefully for Cori's seven-year-old ears.

The idea made Cori mad. She has been righteously indignant in the past, and it truly is a sight to behold. This time, she uttered the astonishingly liberative truth: "No one is different than everybody." Knowing this and living one's life shaped by this notion make it very difficult to discriminate. One has a hard time prejudging someone else when starting from this place. I cannot look at a person different from me and make comparative assessment of them using myself as the standard, because, as Cori says, no one is different from everybody.

Fundamentally, all of us are just people trying to live our lives as best we can. In that sense, everyone is like everyone else, although I am not trying to promote "sameness" as a desirable trait. Far from it! I celebrate the diversity of God's creation whenever possible. And it is important to note that "sameness" and "unity" are not synonyms. The church can and should and occasionally does exhibit deep and profound unity in the midst of its wondrous and vibrant diversity.

The yin/yang of diversity and unity is an important affirmation of God's creative power. Preudice is when we tip the balance too far toward unity using our own perspective as the standard of measurement. The miracle of life is that each of us is uniquely valued by God while at the same time living as just one among many in common humanity with one another.

Thanks to Cori for helping me understand this anew. No one is different than everybody yet each of us can know God personally. And that's the Gospel according to Cori.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Council of Bishops - Folks Like Us

Our denomination's Council of Bishops has written this letter to the church. You can read the whole thing by clicking here. In the letter, they write, "While pastors have the responsibility to discern readiness for membership, homosexuality is not a barrier." And they quote our Social Principles, saying, "We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends." Of course, they are responding to this week's Judicial Council decision regarding Rev. Ed Johnson of South Hill UMC in Virginia.

There is a lot of blog chatter about this letter: some bloggers have criticized it; some have supported it; some have just posted it and let it be.

Thing is, my grandfather is a bishop. Monk Bryan, retired from the Nebraska conference and living now in Dallas and in Lake Junaluska, is my grandfather. When I read a letter from the bishops of my church, I am reading a letter from Daddy Monk. The man who loves nothing more than saddling a horse for a ride through the mountains. The man who has a fondness for peaches and vanilla ice cream. The man who taught me that a job is not done until the tools are cleaned and put away. The man who loves to hear me play hymns on the old piano in his living room. The man who loves the church of Jesus Christ more than anyone I have ever known.

Life is not a series of issues to be argued over until someone wins and someone loses. Life is people connecting to people, valuing one another, growing closer to God and neighbor, getting to know the faces of strangers. Sure, the Council of Bishops is a group of the most powerful, respected leaders of our denomination. But it is also Daddy Monk. And Fritz. And Ann. And Robert. And ...

Just a bunch of folks like us.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

... Okay, but how do you FEEL?

Erin read my post from yesterday and said, "I'm disappointed in your blog today."
Now, Erin has used a lot of words to describe her reaction to my blog, but "disappointed" was a new one. I therefore asked her to explain.

She said, "That blog entry does not really reflect your true feelings. I saw you yesterday, I talked with you, I know how you feel about these decisions, and you just didn't show it in that blog."

As usual, Erin was right. My entry yesterday was a pathetic attempt at levity, which I was using as a defense mechanism to mask my emotional reaction. Jackie Thomas, my CPE instructor, would not be very happy with me, either. She was always pushing me to express my emotional responses, trying to dig into the shallow facade of "I-have-it-all-together-ness" that I always try to project. And yesterday, I definitely did not have it all together.

To use a trite cliche, my heart is broken. Yesterday, I was convicted of my sin - namely, thinking of homosexuality as an issue that we can somehow discuss and dialogue in order to resolve or not. It is not just an issue that we can get tired of talking about and let drop somewhere. I know now that it is not an issue among issues. It defies comparison to other issues - i.e. slavery, idolatry, hot buttered corn on the cob. It is much more.

The United Methodist Judicial Council decisions of yesterday represent systemic devaluing of people based on arbitrary criteria set by the powerful.

Here it is again:
...systemic devaluing of people based on arbitrary criteria set by the powerful.

I spent a lot of time wrestling with God to come up with that sentence, and I will defend every single word in it.

The term that is likely to cause the most stir is "arbitrary criteria," so I'll just go ahead and take that one on now. "It is not arbitrary, it is the Bible, and if you disagree with me, you are denying the authority of the Bible," is how the argument goes. We have heard it many times before. The problem is, in the "pick and choose" method of naming sins, there is no pattern. There is no discernable method by which the "practice" of same gender sexual contact has been elevated above any of the others on the S list - lawsuits, divorce, not selling all your possessions and giving the money to the poor, etc.
And furthermore, while the Bible is clearly talking about same gender sexual contact, it is most often talking about elevating one's desire for sex above one's desire for God. Either that or child abuse, gang rape, or other "shameful and degrading" sex acts. It is simply not referring to two grown people who are in love with each other expressing their love sexually. Reading every single word of the authoritative Hebrew and Greek texts very closely and delving deeply into the meaning of every line of the text has convinced me of that.

So yes, I am sticking with "arbitrary criteria," and I will until someone convinces me of my error. The United Methodist Judicial Council decisions of yesterday represent systemic devaluing of people based on arbitrary criteria set by the powerful.

I am sorry that I did not emote yesterday. I was trying to put up that mask of levity and I-have-it-all-together-ness. Sometimes I wish I had some of my brother's raw, in your face emotive capacity. But just a little bit. (He scares me sometimes ;) But now I can say, my heart is broken about these decisions. I know that I am not alone, either. And for those of you reading this whose hearts with mine have been smacked around for way to long, please help me. Please help me discern a fitting way to speak the truth in love so that God's will might be done on earth, as it is in heaven. I don't know what's next. So please help me to know. Please God.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

I Have An Idea!

It is too late for this year, but I have a great costume idea for next halloween. I am going to go as a homosexual United Methodist, since the prospect of the existence of such a creature seems to be so terrifying for people. I bet I get lots of candy!

Seriously, what is so scary? I have real, honest questions about the "threat" to the institution of marriage allegedly posed by gay couples. Can anyone tell me how my relationship with Erin is threatened because of gay marriages?

And thinking about ordination and membership in the church: Can anyone tell me what greater threat to the body of Christ is posed by people who are gay than say, by people who enter into lawsuits, or maybe by women speaking in church, or perhaps by people who do not sell all their possessions and give them to the poor? All of these issues are specifically addressed in the New Testament, aren't they?

The Judicial Council decisions about Beth Stroud and Ed Johnson (click their names to read the stories) are further evidence of how far from the core Christian values of love and grace our denomination has come. It is a really hard time to be Methodist.

Only by the grace of God will we be able to discern if the Via Media will eventually become reality. In the meantime, we will have to deal with the fear and with the oppression and injustice that result.

For whatever it's worth, I'm sorry.