(February 2, 2014) When we read the list of blessings in the Gospels (“beatitudes,” as they are often called), we can read them both as reminders of whom God loves, and as soothing balm for the parts of ourselves most in need of blessing. What blessings do you need to hear? (Matthew 5:1-12)
(Jan 26, 2014) Some things are harder than they might seem at first (like keeping goldfish alive–whyyyy?). Perhaps it sounds easy to “make disciples” or share faith or live the Christian life, but it is hard. The good news is that we are not called to walk solo journeys. (Matthew 4:12-23)
(January 19, 2014) When is the last time you looked at something– not just let the images assault your eyeballs, but looked deeply? This deep looking is what God is inviting when Christ says “come and see.” (John 1:29-42)
A month after the Board of Ordained Ministry in Pennsylvania stripped Rev. Frank Schaefer of his ordination credentials for officiating at his son’s wedding and refusing to state he would follow the entirety of the Book of Discipline in the future, the United Methodist Church is back at it again.
The New York Annual Conference announced the date of March 10 as the beginning of the trial of Rev. Dr. Tom Ogletree. Like Rev. Schaefer, Rev. Dr. Ogletree is an ordained United Methodist Elder. Like Schaefer, he has a son who is gay. Like Schaefer, he officiated at his son’s wedding. In addition, Rev. Dr. Ogletree is a former professor and Dean at a Divinity School in Connecticut, oh, right, Yale, and before that Drew. Where he taught such irrelevant courses as theological ethics and Christian social ethics. And literally wrote the book in the church’s witness to the world– Oh, just read about him here.
At least one friend has compared the coming trial to that time that the Ministry of Magic tried to interrogate Professor Dumbledore. Not a bad comparison.
I don’t want to get in to all that right now.
These trials have a sort of fatalistic nature to them. We all assume that the persons on trial will be found guilty. I’m not sure this should be the case– after all, the church says we can’t officiate at same-sex weddings, but does not take time to define sex, or explain how, in the absence of legal background checks, medical screenings and examinations, hormonal and chromosomal lab results and so on, a pastor is supposed to determine such. But I digress.
Let’s assume for a moment that Rev. Dr. Ogletree is found guilty of violating the unjust law as laid out in The United Methodist Book of Discipline. Where the real interest lies is in the sentencing.
Some clergy members who have been found guilty of such violations have their credentials revoked, as was the case with Rev. Schaefer (legal or not). But in 2011, the jury in the Wisconsin Annual Conference sentenced Rev. Amy DeLong (found not guilty of being a “self-avowed practicing homosexual” but guilty of officiating a same-sex wedding) with a twenty day suspension, and then charged her to research and write a paper addressing the nature of the clergy covenant, how it has been harmed and how it might be healed.
The old saying goes, let the punishment fit the crime. But DeLong’s “punishment” seemed more intended to fix or at least address the root problems in the alleged “crime.”
What if the jury in Rev. Dr. Ogletree’s trial took that approach? What if they used this opportunity not to punish Ogletree or scare others into compliance with laws they find unjust (how’s that working for ya?), but to address root problems in this issue?
Specifically, I would like to see the jury, should they find Rev. Dr. Ogletree guilty of a violation of unjust church law, instruct him to create or propose a system for dealing with charges that persons are self-avowed practicing homosexuals or have officiated at same-sex weddings, in ways other than trials. Church trials are a waste of time, money, human resources, and spiritual strength. They show the watching world that The United Methodist Church is divided and broken, and no better able to live together in difference and brokenness than middle schoolers on the playground. Yes, they highlight the injustices in the system and as such become a force for eventual change, but I fear there won’t be much of a church left by the time they’ve accomplished that work. If only we had a former Dean of a theological school, a professor of Christian ethics, an author who has researched the church’s witness to the world on social issues, and a pastor and parent with life experience to reflect with us on these things!
So that’s my modest proposal for the jury in the Ogletree trial: Find Rev. Dr. Ogletree guilty if you must (although try to see if you can get your terms and concepts around sex and sexuality and gender and gender identity somewhat consistent if you can). But then consider the injustice of the letter of the law. Consider the pain to the whole church and the whole world for as long as the world is still listening to anything remotely called “church.” Consider the resource and gift of the person in front of you.
Seek the Middle Way. Remain in connection. Work for justice and for healing.
Let the punishment at least try to start fixing the crime.
(January 5, 2014) In Baptism, God names Jesus, names us as God’s children, and names God’s own self. What tremendous power, grace, and responsibility is found in knowing who we are and who God is? (Isaiah 42:1-9, Matthew 3:13-17)
(January 5, 2014) We see what we expect to see, and we let our expectations shape our reality. For the magi, who were open to seeing new things, they followed the signs to something new and let their dreams and visions guide them. For Herod, who expected violence and bloodshed– not so much. I invite the congregation into an exercise of picking a word (on a star), and letting that word be a focus point through which they see the new year, letting God speak to them. (Isaiah 60:1-6, Matthew 2:1-12)
The idea about star-words came from Marci Glass, a member of RevGalBlogPals. Thanks, Marci!
(Dec 24, 2013 – Christmas Eve) Into our lives where sorrow and loneliness lurk, into the life of the world, where love was least expected, God’s presence breaks in. Christmas is not about celebrating Jesus’ birthday– or at least not primarily about that. First and foremost it is a celebration of “Immanuel,” God-With-Us. (Isaiah 9:2-7, Luke 2:1-7)
I of course take no credit for and intend no infringement upon Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I quote from it and from Anne Robertson’s blog post “Transformation in Whoville.”