On December 16, 2012 my Uncle John died. It is only recently that I have slid comfortably into calling John “uncle.” John was, from before I was born, the beloved “friend” of my father’s oldest brother, my Uncle George. Uncle George passed away in 2000 at the age of 89. They lived in California, so growing up, I knew them only from visits to Pittsburgh – mostly in the fall to enjoy the change of seasons. I have spoken of them often, but not by name. As they have both gone on to Jesus, I think I can now.
On what grounds do I stay to love and serve God in Christ in the PCUSA? I rest upon Paul’s appeal for unity in his letter to the Ephesians as a crucial pillar supporting my commitment to the Presbyterian Church.
The carol associated with Epiphany, “We Three Kings of Orient Are,” is probably my favorite song of the whole Christmas season. Since I was very young, I could feel the sway of the camels who carried the wise men day and night while they kept their eyes fixed on the star leading them ever onward to Jesus.
I am very grateful for the spiritual discipline of daily Bible reading which gives me the opportunity to return to stories like the Tower of Babel and bring my adult sense to bear on its meaning. The lesson I draw from it now is different from my Sunday school days.
As I recently marked the 34th anniversary of my being ordained to the office of pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), I can say that I have witnessed my fair share of troubles in the church. All of this has prompted, from me, this meditation upon Christian love, informed by Paul’s reflections.
In my 30 years as an advocate for God’s love for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, I’ve had countless conversations with those who think differently from me about God, Scripture and the place of LGBT faithful in the church. Today, I share with you the five questions I most commonly hear, as well as my answers to them.
We all have passages in Scripture that rise to the top for us and become a personal sacred canon within the communal sacred canon of the Bible. Parts of 1 John 3—a chapter in the first of three letters ascribed to the evangelist, John, and directed to Christian communities steeped in the perspective of the Gospel of John—have been in my personal canon since I was a teenager.
I have never considered leaving the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). I know many have. I respect that choice though it makes me terribly sad. I understand the view that the unity Jesus is speaking of here is on a higher plane or in a spiritual dimension. I get that people can only stand so much.
Last year, I pondered upon our sinfulness at Good Friday. The day invites us to that humble prayer of confession. However, this year another aspect of Jesus’ ordeal leading to ignominious death fills my mind. It comes at the start of this day in Gethsemane, a garden about a mile from Jerusalem.
In essence, we have said to our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members, “Too bad, your Baptism pales in the light of our judgment of you.”