Posts Tagged ‘discrimination


Celebrating Women in Ministry

Female pastorFrom watching the TODAY Show this morning, I learned that today – October 11 – is the International Day of the Girl. Seems like something I should have known already.

I hope you won’t take offense at being called girls, but to celebrate this day, I want to give a big shout-out to female pastors.

I have had the privilege of knowing some phenomenal women who have answered the call to ordained ministry and who have served Christ faithfully, tirelessly, and creatively… all while enduring challenges we male clergy types have never even imagined experiencing.

  • I, for example, have never had a congregant come through the hand-shake line and compliment me on my hairstyle, utterly ignoring every word of my painstakingly prepared message.
  • I have also never heard the comment – overtly or covertly – that “men just don’t belong in the pulpit.” (And yes, that is still being said in 2019 in reference to female clergy).
  • No one has ever told me that they couldn’t focus on my message because I was “too pretty.”
  • My denomination has not systematically overlooked my leadership abilities when appointment-setting time rolls around.
  • I have never been called “overly emotional” (even though I really am an overly emotional guy).
  • Concerns have never been expressed about how I will balance my parenting responsibilities with my ministry.
  • I have never been “accidentally” groped while serving Holy Communion. (And just to be crystal clear; the quotes there around the word “accidentally” mean there was nothing accidental at all about the groping. And yes, that happened just a year ago to a female clergy friend).
  • And the list goes on and on, ad nauseum

It was only fifty years ago that the Methodist Church (pre-merger) began ordaining women. The largest protestant denomination in the world (the Southern Baptist Conference) still cites 1 Timothy 2:12 (“I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent.”)for its outlandish refusal to permit women to have any position of power in the Southern Baptist Church.

[So just a question for you here, SBC: are you also “all in” with Paul’s instructions on how to treat our slaves? Or on the covering of heads? Or the Levitical ordnances against mixing fibers in our clothing? Just curious…]

Even though I would love to believe that the CHURCH would be the last place we would find injustice, intolerance, and bigotry, it is just not the case.

Even here.

Even now.

So, blessings and much love on this International Day to you Shelly, Gayla, Maria, Kara, Nancy, Barb, Nanette, Libby, Melinda, Trudy, Sylvia, Sharon, Amy, Dee, Anne, Karen, Stephanie, Ally, Shayla, Esther, Joyce, Ashlee, Jada, Lisa, Rebecca, Nadia, and to every woman who nevertheless persists in following God’s call on your life.

We need you now more than ever.

And to the rest of us, let’s do everything we can to support and encourage these women as they lead us in following Christ.


Daring to die

jesus-last-supperPicture, if you will, this scene: Jesus gathers with his closest disciples to celebrate the Feast of Passover. They are in the upper room in Jerusalem… the same place they have gathered every year of his ministry.

As the last words of the Haggadahfade and the tables are being cleared, Jesus makes an unusual request. He asks for their attention and tells the assembled followers he has an important announcement. He then tells them that in the last 24 hours he has received very credible reports of a conspiracy against him… led by the disciple Judas.

“In fact,” he continues, “… I know that even now a group of Roman guards is gathering and preparing to arrest me tonight in the garden of Gesthemane as I pray.”

The end result – he is confident – will be a quick, perfunctory trial followed by death by crucifixion.

“Which is why I am telling you now that instead of going to Gesthemane as originally planned, we need to gather up our things quickly and head out the back entrance of the house and out the southern gate of the city.”

Almost as an afterthought, he adds, “Guys, we have come too far with this ministry to let it be stopped by a misguided Zealot and a bunch of corrupt religious officials. We have to preserve what we have AT ALL COSTS!”

Anyone even vaguely familiar with the Bible knows this is NOT what happened that night… the night of the Last Supper.

Even though he knew full well the fate that awaited him, Jesus went forward to meet his horrible, painful, humiliating destiny. Yes, he prayed earnestly that God would take the painful cup away from him. But he ended his prayer with the powerful words, “… yet not my will, but thy will be done.” (Matthew 26:39, NRSV).

Schism road signToday the church I serve – the United Methodist Church – faces the very real threat of schism. This looming split is over whether or not we will decide to allow our Book of Discipline to reflect the full inclusion of all God’s children… without qualification or exception.

For a long time, a portion of the leadership of the United Methodist Church has said, “Some people – mostly because of their sexual orientation – should not be fully included in our communion.”

“Yes, we will let them come into our houses of worship and sing and pray with us, and even serve on committees. But due to our preference for a narrow, culturally-bound interpretation of scripture, we will not ordain them as pastors, or allow an ordained United Methodist pastor to preside at one of their weddings. They are just not compatible with Christian teaching.”

As you might imagine, another portion of the church’s leadership disagrees with this position and advocates instead that ALL faithful, believing Christians be fully included in ordination, marriage, worship, service, and fellowship.

Without exception.

And so, after more than 40 years of heated wrangling and name calling by persons on both sides of the issue, a compromise solution has been reached. It is a solution that was developed by a select group of thoughtful leaders representing both sides of the question, over a period of many months of prayer, deliberation, listening, and conversation.

This solution has been endorsed by the Governing Council of Bishops and will likely be adopted at a special called session of the church in February 2019.

The solution is called the ONE CHURCH SOLUTION… meaning it will allow us to avoid schism and remain one, unified, global church.

And in my humble opinion, it stinks.

To high heaven.

The essence of the ONE CHURCH SOLUTION is to allow geographical districts of the church (called Annual Conferences) to make their own decision about whether they will be an INCLUDING church or an EXCLUDING church.

That way, you see, we will be able to avoid the heartbreak of a painful breakup and allow the United Methodist Church to both HAVE its cake and EAT IT at the same time.

The part of this solution I find so objectionable is that it provides theological cover for unjust discrimination. It would be exactly the same thing as if we rolled back the calendar 150 years and said, “OK… if some churches want to endorse slavery and keeping of human beings as property (based, of course, on certain select scripture passages), we will let them do that.”

“If, on the other hand, you don’t think slavery is just, you are free to believe that also.”

I’m sorry… but it doesn’t get to be both ways. Discrimination is either right or wrong. (it’s wrong, by the way). Both positions can’t exist under the same roof.

And if the adoption of the position of justice means that our global denomination has to split in two (or three), then so be it.

Please understand… I really hate the idea of a schism in this church that I love.

In a way, I see schism as a death.

But by his example, Jesus showed us that sometimes we have to dare to walk the path that leads directly to a painful and horrible outcome… trusting that new life will somehow emerge on the other side.

Can we pray, “Not my will, but yours be done,” and mean it?



Do you ever forget things?



I certainly do.

I forget small things, big things, and things of an intermediate size.

In the realm of forgetfulness I do not discriminate. I can say with confidence that no matter who you are or what your station in life, there is a good chance I will forget something essential about you.

I joke, but this characteristic of mine is not something I am particularly proud of. In fact, it is a little unsettling sometimes… for me and those around me. Not only do I forget things, but also the rate at which I forget them seems to be increasing.

I have actually taken tests and been told by people who study these things that I am not unusually forgetful for a guy my age.

But still…

We all know that forgetfulness increases as we age. It is just the price of entry into the Golden Years on Planet Earth. There was an article in the July, 2011 issue of Psychology and Aging that tells us that, “Problems with remembering, learning and retaining new information are a few of the most common complaints of older adults.”

News flash!

But then the article goes on to explain why this happens and says, “… memory performance is usually related to the active functioning of three stages. These three stages are encoding, storage and retrieval.” I am not a psychologist, but I what I think they are saying is that remembering something has to do with how you classify it, how you store it, and how you go and get it from the storage area.

Makes sense.

As I reflect on this process a bit, I think my biggest problem comes in the first phase of the process: what the experts call “encoding.”

See… at the rate information swirls around us all day, we have to have a way to sift through that torrent of “stuff” and decide what to toss away and what to keep. Brain cells being the finite things they are, we can’t keep everything. Or at least I can’t.

(This whole discussion reminds me of that Far Side cartoon where the kid raises his hand in class and says, “Mrs. Schmidt, may I be excused, please? My brain is full.”)

And here at the encoding stage is where I think I get into my biggest trouble. Because one of the first ways I seem to “encode” something is by whether it is: A.) IMPORTANT, Or B.) NOT IMPORTANT. And when something gets labeled as B.) NOT IMPORTANT, it is virtually guaranteed to slip right through the cracks of my otherwise steel-trap brain and fall right out onto the floor.

So, for example, when my wife sweetly calls up the stairs to me and says, “Hey… when you come down, could you please bring that blanket with you? You know… the one I want to wash??…” my mouth says, “Sure! Be glad to!” but my brain seems to say something more like, “Blanket, schmanket. I’m busy doing important stuff here up in my office. I’m writing blog posts and sermons that will SAVE THE WORLD! I can’t be bothered with BLANKETS!”

And then, of course two hours later, I come down the stairs empty-handed. And, of course, Joan sweetly asks, “Did you bring that blanket with you?” And I, of course, slap my palm against my forehead and say, “Oooo! Sorry! I forgot!”

So you see… the point here is not really about forgetting. It is much more about the process that I (or any of us, for that matter) use when we choose to call something IMPORTANT or UNIMPORTANT.

How do we make that choice? Is it based on how relevant I consider the thing to be to me personally? Is it based on the bearing I believe it has on The Future of Civilization As We Know It? Does it have to do with my perception of imminent danger or lack thereof that is involved?

Or is it something else entirely?

Even though we might need to do it to prevent sensory overload, I believe it is a dangerous, and I’ll even say SINFUL process to begin dividing things up as either important or unimportant. I mean, think about it: how many times has something that appeared totally irrelevant one day – through a change in circumstance – become highly relevant the next? How many times has MY personal “filter of importance” been shown to be incomplete or deficient in some way, revealing that a thing I might have called unimportant was actually VERY important?

And where this process really gets slippery is when you stop to think how easily we might shift from classifying THINGS in terms of their importance to classifying PEOPLE in the same way.

Deciding and assigning degrees of importance to events or people is probably beyond my pay grade. It is something that should be left to a Divine Creator, for example… someone who has the perspective of infinity.

It brings to mind the long and beautiful exhortation we find in chapters 38 through 40 of the book of Job. We get to listen in as God lovingly and artfully shreds Job in a speech designed to remind Job just how limited human beings are and how unlimited God is.

Humans should not, God says, presume just because we have received the power of reason that we know anything at all about how the universe works.

“Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, so that a flood of waters may cover you? Can you send forth lightinings, so that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’? Who has put wisdom in the inward parts, or given understanding to the mind? Who has the wisdom to number the clouds? Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens?” Job 38:34-37, NRSV.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth… and the single-celled amoeba and the banyan tree and the duck-billed platypus, and the intricate, multi-faceted human being, and the gnat. And God said that ALL were good and ALL were important.

Because it ALL matters to God.

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