Day: August 11, 2019

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Pastor Notes to Sayville Congregational United Church of Christ
June 18, 2019

Dear Friends,

When I Ieft the Roman Catholic Church, I did not do so as an indictment of the church or in judgment of anyone who remained there. My family is split in that they have continued to be faithful in the Roman Catholic Church, worshiping there, getting married, baptizing babies, and having burials in the church, as we did when my dad died several years ago. So, reading this, you can tell that I am the one who “split” the family church tradition. It only takes one, sometimes.

I want to say that I love my family and we are still close. I would do anything I could for them. But there is a deep theological divide in the institutions we have chosen to grow in our faith and for our spiritual journeys. Some folks would say that there is no reason to even have to make a decision about such things. Others, like me, find ourselves required to do so, in order to maintain a level of integrity and dignity that is at our core. For me, I needed to make that choice, leaving the church more than 30 years ago, finally accepting how harmful it was to live under the oppressive teachings of the Roman Church. The conflict was not just about the church’s stance on queer people, but it was enough for me to go.

I want to say that I have also experienced similar treatment treatment in the Protestant Church. However, it was in the Presbyterian Church (USA) that I found the possibility of change. A slow slog and still not claiming itself to be “Open and Affirming”, the PCUSA renewed my hope in what a community of faith could do to restore the damage churches so often do. The PCUSA still has a ways to go, especially to “catch up” to the United Church of Christ, which has sprinted past most mainline Protestant denominations in welcoming all. And, with the frequent blend of the historical Congregational Church in the UCC, well, I hope others will find what so many of us have found and come to love here.

And all this means something; it means a lot, actually. For me, it means that I have learned the process of identifying when I believe an institution is wrong and speaking out about it, without blaming people in the institution. For me, that means saying: “This is wrong,”

And the Roman Catholic Church is again wrong.

The Roman Catholic Church, the institution of the church, has again shown how mistaken it can be, how harmful and insensitive the institution can be in the marginalization of people, this time in its announcement about our Transgender Family. During Pride Month.

One spokesperson on behalf of the Roman Church’s education arm recently said that “…being open to the complex nature of gender and gender fluidly is an attempt to annihilate the concept of nature,” insisting that biology decides what is “constitutive of human identity” and calling for the for the reaffirmation of “the metaphysical roots of sexual difference.” Full Article from NBC News

No. Wrong. It is not we who annihilate in embracing our Transgender siblings.

It may be that for someone like me who has split from my early church affiliations because of  its “teachings against me and others like me” that this new policy is especially abhorrent, understanding how lives will be impacted and the doors of the church closed again to “others.” Still, you don’t have to be a queer person to know this teaching is not right. It is wrong. And, it is wrong (and maybe a bit smarmy) for the institution that is putting this forward to say that misguided as you are, you are still welcome in a church that vilifies you; to say you are still loved by an institution that has no idea who you are and the destruction they are causing you..

It is not right. It is not faithful. It is wrong. And, for the folks for whom it doesn’t matter, well, they can still have their baptisms and weddings and burials in such a place, as if all is well.

That, I think, is wrong, too.

And, in the meantime, we will continue to be a place where all are welcome and where no matter the place you are on your spiritual journey, you will be embraced here – and even ordained and married here.

Since it needs to be said to our Transgender Family, let me say, “We apologize on behalf of an institution that doesn’t know better, even though it is sure it does. And, we reject this teaching wholeheartedly.”

And, with these words from last Sunday’s bulletin:

“Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they know the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say
‘Look!’ and laugh in astonishment
and bow their heads.”

​From Mysteries by Mary Oliver


Note: Well there are many who would agree with these thoughts, these are my thoughts only and not meant to represent anyone other than myself. I hope you will talk with me about this or anything this else that such a provocation might stir in you.

Pastor Notes, Sayville Congregational United Church of Christ
February 26, 2019

Dear Friends,

It’s called the “Thucydides Trap.” Thucydides was an Athenian historian, who wrote the “History of the Peloponnesian War” in the 5th Century B.C.E., recording events of the war between Sparta and Athens. The term “Thucydides Trap” was coined by Graham T. Allison, an American political scientist and Harvard professor. Basically, the term for this non-historian (me) refers to the the dangerous tensions caused by a rising power in the face of an established power.  It is what is believed to have made the war between Athens and Sparta inevitable. Athens was getting too strong and greedy; Sparta needed to attack.

In modern day foreign affairs circles this “trap” can also be sprung when increased bellicose rhetoric, international bullying or threat of the use of enormous power – reaches such a pitch that others respond, even if it is “all just talk.” The threat of great threats can be as dangerous as the real thing. The “trap”, so to speak, is that one never knows when the threat or “managed aggression” will backfire into an international conflict.

The times of the 4th Century B.C.E. through today continue to tell the story of humanity seeking a better life; a more just world. Against the backdrop of the earlier times, we see the emergence of Jesus, the event of Jesus Christ into the midst of it all, as if parachuting from sanity into chaos, with the hope of turning it around. And, the secret power that would make the difference wasn’t bellicose threats — but the language of the heart; the language of love and justice.

If we accept the premise that the increased perception of a threat can produce a violent response just to eliminate the threat – is the converse true? Does an increase in the language and practice of love produce an even greater response of compassion, forbearance, love?

Yes, but centuries of greed and power grabs can make it difficult to get a foothold. That doesn’t mean we don’t continue to climb the mountain – in fact, it means we do continue. Today, the United Methodist Church voted away from love, in my opinion. They voted against the threat of love that includes our LGBTQIA+ (Queer) family. When a mainline Protestant denomination can discriminate against others, we see why the world has such a hard time with our faith communities being taken seriously as leaders in the call to justice and love. We see the problem for what it is…fear. And pride. In this case pride that makes it impossible for an institution to acknowledge the error of its ways and begin the process of reconciliation.

All the more reason we continue in the pursuit of love and justice.

To all our friends in the UMC… our arms and prayers around you.

Remember those who look forward to hearing from you…