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A Warning for Those Who Join Late

The fight against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation has suffered some set backs recently.  The United Methodist Church and North Carolina both voted for exclusion and bigotry.  That saddens me.  Nonetheless, my frustration is greatest with regard to those who sit on the sidelines.  As John the Revelator says, “So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”  Rev. 3:16.  Here’s a little Persian parable from Herodotus that I came across this morning that seemed relevant.

As soon as the Lydians had been subjugated by the Persians, the Ionians and Aeolians sent messengers to Cyrus, offering to be his subjects on the same terms as those which they had under Croesus. After hearing what they proposed, Cyrus told them a story. Once, he said, there was a flute-player who saw fish in the sea and played upon his flute, thinking that they would come out on to the land. Disappointed of his hope, he cast a net and gathered it in and took out a great multitude of fish; and seeing them leaping, “You had best,” he said, “stop your dancing now; you would not come out and dance before, when I played to you.” The reason why Cyrus told the story to the Ionians and Aeolians was that the Ionians, who were ready to obey him when the victory was won, had before refused when he sent a message asking them to revolt from Croesus. So he answered them in anger. 

God help us.

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The Disciples of Christ Are Anti-Exclusion Part II: Founding Principles

UPDATED 11/27/11 to correct typos and make some adjustments in response to comments on Romans.

Part I

At the heart of the Stone-Campbell movement was a calling “to restore Christianity to its original purity and power,” in which Disciples historians have recognized “the significant role of American religious liberty.” [1] This section explores how this calling led the church founders to believe that (1) church doctrine and human tradition had crowded out the simple, true Gospel of Jesus Christ and (2) a particularly destructive manifestation of this perversion of the faith was the exclusion of some from the Body of Christ. These themes are evident not only in the works of Thomas and Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone, but also in the work of John Locke, a particularly influential philosopher for the church founders. [2] In Locke’s A Letter Concerning Toleration he wrote,

Whosoever requires those things in order to ecclesiastical communion, which Christ does not require in order to life eternal, he may, perhaps, indeed constitute a society accommodated to his own opinion and his own advantage; but how that can be called the Church of Christ which is established upon laws that are not His, and which excludes such person from its communion as He will one day receive into the Kingdom of Heaven, I understand not.

Note both the notion that human doctrine could corrupt the teachings of Christ and that the corruption leads to exclusion.

The Stone Movement’s important Last Will & Testament of the Springfield Presbytery addressed the corruption of the Gospel with human tradition. Stone’s Christians willed “that candidates for the Gospel ministry henceforth study the holy scripture with fervent prayer, and obtain license from God to preach the simple Gospel, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, without any mixture of philosophy, vain deceit, traditions of men, or rudiments of the world.” Even more graphically, at the beginning of the Observations written to accompany the Last Will & Testament, the Christians asked, “How often even among us, has he been crucified afresh, and put to an open shame; pronounced powerless, dead, and buried among the rubbish of human tradition?” This sentiment was not held only by the Christians. In Alexander Campbell’s Declaration and Address, the first declaration is that the Disciples were forming a religious association “for the sole purpose of promoting simple evangelical Christianity, free from all mixture of human opinions and inventions of men.” A pithy summary can be found in the popular slogan: in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity. [3]

In place of human tradition and creeds, the founders encouraged adherents to read Scripture for themselves. In the Appendix to the Declaration and Address, Campbell explains that the Reformers “propose to patronize nothing but the inculcation of the express word of God–either as to matter of faith or practice;–but every one that has a Bible, and can read it, can read this for himself.–Therefore we have nothing new.” Likewise, the Christians willed in the Last Will & Testament “that the people may have free course to the Bible, and adopt the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” Indeed, as mentioned above, when Barton W. Stone was required to accept the Westminster Confession as a part of his ordination into the Presbytery of Transylvania, Kentucky he would not accept the creed without qualification. [4] Stone records in his autobiography, “I went into the Presbytery, and when the question was proposed, ‘Do you receive and adopt the Confession of Faith, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Bible?’ I answered aloud, so that the whole congregation might hear, ‘I do, as far as I see it consistent with the word of God.’ No objection being made, I was ordained.” [5] Or, as another slogan goes, “Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent.” [6]

As a natural consequence of rejecting creeds, Stone and the Campbells both rejected tests of membership. [7] In the introduction to the Declaration, Campbell put it this way.

We are also persuaded that as no man can be judged for his brother, so no man can judge for his brother: but that every man must be allowed to judge for himself, as every man must bear his own judgment;–must give account of himself to God–We are also of opinion that as the divine word is equally binding upon all so all lie under an equal obligation to be bound by it, and it alone; and not by any human interpretation of it: and that therefore no man has a right to judge his brother, except in so far as he manifestly violates the express letter of the law.

It is perhaps its direct link to rejecting exclusion that makes the story of the Communion token so popular. It is undisputed that the Seceder church to which Campbell belonged in Scotland required that before receiving Communion members must first qualify for a Communion token. [8] Some have suggested that when the plate came to Campbell he threw his token upon the plate and compared “[t]he ring of that token, as it fell from his hands [to] the ring of Martin Luther’s hammer on the door of the Wittenberg cathedral.” [9] Others report the incident more as an internal moment in which Campbell quietly refused Communion in personal protest. [10] In either case, rejecting exclusion was an essential part of Campbell’s vision.

These principles strongly argue against discriminating against Christians based on sexual orientation or gender identity. First, having the same sexual orientation and gender identity as the majority of Christians in a particular congregation is not an essential. Walter Scott identified what was essential for membership as the “golden oracle” recorded in Matthew 16:16, namely to confess that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” [11] And even if Scott’s formulation is too narrow, the absence of any discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in Scripture demonstrates that these traits are not essential to being a follower of Christ.

This leads to the second point; the Bible is entirely silent on sexual orientation and gender identity. There is literally nothing addressing same sex couples getting married or adopting children. To be sure, the Bible references acts of sex between people of the same physical sex. However, the Scriptures do not consider the notion of a loving relationship between two people of the same physical sex. Consider Romans 1:26-27.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Paul describes abandoning natural relations and being inflamed with lust. Nothing in this description seems remotely related to the couples at Chalice Christian Church raising children together in committed lifetime relationships. More importantly, that it was in fact unnatural for some women to have relations with men–that people have sexual orientations that are not necessarily determined by their physical bodies–was an entirely foreign idea to the authors and the early readers of the Scripture. Thus, the Scripture is silent on sexual orientation. The silence of the Scripture on this topic argues for accepting Christians of all sexual orientations and gender identity.

Third, exclusion of Christians based on sexual orientation or gender identity is a mixture of human opinions and inventions of men with Christianity. As discussed above, one’s sexual orientation and gender identity is not a topic of Scripture. Rejecting people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered has become a creed proposed by some Christian churches. It is a social issue–like whether a man may take multiple women as his wife–but is not a Christian issue.

Finally, the principle of religious liberty supports accepting Christians without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity. Furthermore, the principle supports being public about the church’s acceptance. Perhaps at sometime in the future a congregation’s declaration of being open to and affirming of Christians regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity will be as proforma as an employer’s declaration of being an Equal Opportunity Employer. Until that time comes, however, the absence of such a declaration amounts to de facto exclusion. Such a membership test cannot be harmonized with the principles of the Stone-Campbell movement.

Of course, this is not to say that the movement’s founders would have literally accepted gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered Christians. How the movement’s principles have directed the evolution of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is the topic of the next section.
______________________________________________________

[1] M. Blowers, Douglas A. Foster, and D. Newell Williams, Stone-Campbell History Over Three Centuries, in The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement at xxii (2004 ed.).
[2] See, e.g., D. Duane Cummins, The Disciples: A Struggle for Reformation (2009 paperback ed.) (noting the significance of Locke for the Disciples founders and that Alexander Campbell referred to Locke as “The Christian Philosopher”).
[3] For a thorough investigation of the origins of this slogan see Hans Rollmann, “In Essentials Unity”: The Pre-History and History of a Restoration Movement Slogan, available at http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/texts/unitas/essrev.html
[4] Paul M. Blowers, Creeds and Confessions, in The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement at 252.
[5] Barton W. Stone, A Short History of the Life of Barton W. Stone, in The Cane Ridge Reader at 30 (1972 ed.)
[6] Cummins at 119.
[7] Id. at 68.
[8] See, e.g., Leroy Garrett, Campbell, Alexander, in The Encylopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement at 118; Cummins at 52.
[9] Al Maxey, Tale of the Tossed Token: Campbell’s Last Communion Coin, available at http://www.zianet.com/maxey/reflx148.htm
[10] Garrett at 118; Cummins at 52.
[11] Blowers at 254.

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The Disciples of Christ are Anti-Exclusion: Part I: Introduction

Note: This is the first section of an essay I am writing. I would appreciate any and all feedback, from typos to organizational suggestions to objections to the premise.

This essay outlines why the history and heritage of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) leads naturally to being Open and Affirming–accepting into full membership all Christians regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. It demonstrates that the theological underpinnings of the original movements that led to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)’s formation militate an Open and Affirming stance. Next, it briefly traces the Church’s admittedly inconsistent history of removing cultural barriers to participation in the Church. Finally, it applies to the question of whether to be Open and Affirming the Church’s modern vision of bringing wholeness to a fragmented world. Of course, one does not develop an impression of his or her church through academic inquiry, but through experience. And for that reason, this piece begins with a story from a First Christian Church in southern Indiana in the 1980s.

Jeff was older than most when he began membership classes. it is possible that since Jeff was a person with Down Syndrome others had not considered him capable of knowingly making his Good Confession, but the new pastor knew better. The new pastor had grown up as a rough and tumble neighborhood kid in Indianapolis. As a troublemaker who didn’t fit in with organized sports, who under performed in school, and who skirted close to the edge of the law from time to time, he had nonetheless been unconditionally accepted by the Christian Church. He knew that it was his job to likewise accept all those in his new community.

And so, he welcomed Jeff to the front of the church and asked, “Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jeff answered thunderously and unequivocally, “I DO.” His proud and full throated declaration compared favorably to Barton W. Stone’s carefully worded response in a similar situation. Over a century earlier, this founding father had accepted a long list of man made creeds presented to him, but only “[a]s far as it is consistent with the word of God.” Having stripped away the man-made limits on the Gospel, the Christian Church movement enable Jeff to say “I do” without any such hedging.

The pastor then presented the second question, “And do you, Jeff, take Him as your personal Savior?” Again Jeff proclaimed, “I DO.” The ceremony, of course, only provided for a public display of what was already true. God accepted Jeff completely and and surely as Jeff accepted God. Alexander Campbell would have been proud. For, like Campbell, he had protested efforts by the Church to exclude those who were unworthy. Campbell would tell of the time he had qualified for the communion token that authorized him to take communion, but when the time came, he recognized that token to be a symbol of unchristian exclusion, and, thus, rather than participate, he simply dropped the token in the plate and chose not to receive communion that day. If the table was not open to all, he would not participate.

Stone’s defiance and Campbell’s quiet protest bore fruit that Spring day in southern Indiana. The faith of one who might have been rejected was unleashed into the work. And, it transformed all who were there. Such are the ripples created by those founders who rejected exclusion.

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One Sentence: Three Points

The Jews of Palestine, who had fondly expected a temporal deliverer, gave so cold a reception to the miracles of the divine prophet, that it was found unnecessary to publish, or at least to preserve, any Hebrew gospel. Edward Gibbon, Ch. 15, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (circa 1776).

(Emphasis added)(Footnote omitted).

Palestine: I have heard from extreme supporters of Israel that there is no such place as Palestine, like it is some sort of a made up term. It struck me to see something that was written before the United States was a country use the term. I wonder on what the no-such-thing-as-Palestine movement bases its claim.

so cold a reception : For such a careful historian, it is shocking that Gibbon so completely subcumbs to the narrative of his culture. Cold reception? Every follower of Jesus in the Bible is a Jew. Paul may have not been considered a Palestinian, but he was ceratinly a Jew. It is kind of obnoxious to read that the people who are responsible for the entire Christian movement be brushed aside.

Hebrew gospel: Gibbon adds a note that some say Matthew was written in Hebrew, but the evidence suggests otherwise, hence the hedging with “or at least preserve.” Now we know that none of the Gospels were written contemporaneously with the life of Jesus and none in Hebrew. The Q source was also written in Greek.

Is it significant that the Gospels were not written until after Paul’s letter and they were written in the common language–Greek–rather than the language of the Jewish people?

Matthew and Luke were both written after the fall of Jerusalem, but I think both Mark and the Q were written before. Does that matter?

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LDS Church: the perfect Evangelist Church?

According to Gibbon, the spread of Christianity within the Roman Empire was

assisted by the five following causes: I. The inflexible, and, if we may use the expression, the intolerant zeal of the Christians, derived, it is true, from the Jewish religion, but purified from the narrow and unsocial spirit which, instead of inviting, had deterred the Gentiles from embracing the law of Moses. II. The doctrine of a future life, improved by every additional circumstance which could give weight and efficacy to that important truth. III. The miraculous powers ascribed to the primitive church. IV. The pure and austere morals of the Christians. V. The union and discipline of the Christian republic, which gradually formed an independent and increasing state in the heart of the Roman empire.

It occurs to me that the division of Christianity that most emulates these qualities today is the LDS Church, which just happens to also be one of the fastest growing churches in the nation.

My thoughts are based on my interactions with members of the LDS church rather than an academic study into the topic. For that reason I hope that members of the church will provide their thoughts in the comment section below. Anonymous posting is fine, as always.

Cause I: Exclusive zeal and abhorrence for idolatry. In my last post, I characterized this as being a spritual separatist, but today I am reading this as strictly adhering to one’s belief in the public sphere. My friends who are Mormon would not, for example, go see rated R movies. They would politely decline an offer of alcohol or cafeinated beverage. It is clear that Mormonism transforms one and causes one to be in the world but not of it.

Casuse II: Certainty of Life After. I was discussing theology with a Mormon friend and explained that my church did not tell people what to believe but suggested that they seek their own truth in Scripture. She said, “That’s because your church doesn’t know for sure, right?” She was right. I think absolute conviction about afterlife, and prelife, is a quality to fairly attribute to LDS members.

Cause III: Miracles. The truth is that my recent interactions with friends in the LDS church have not addressed healing ceremonies. Although, growing up in Indiana I was riding with a father and son who were both active in the local LDS church and they talked about the power of healing ceremonies. I am not sure if physical healing brought on by Mormon Elders goes on today much.

Cause IV: Being Good People. Frankly, this is what I think is the biggest distinction between devout Mormons and devout Christian Fundamentalists. Many fundamentalists are super nice people, obviously, but there are a good number who are vicious in the judgmentalism. The first word that anyone uses to describe Mormons as a group is how friendly and kind they are.

Cause V: United & Disciplined. As a person who thrives on curiousity, I see the uniformity of theology expressed by members of the LDS church to be a drawback. But, that’s for me personally. I don’t think one could deny that the Mormon Church puts forward a united front on matters theological and social.

Is this a fair assessment of the characteristics of the LDS Church? Does it make sense that these same causes were present in the early church movement which spread through the ancient super power that was Rome? Should other movements consider emulating these characteristics?

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Montaigne the Multiculturalst

Habituation puts to sleep the eye of our judgment. This is from Montaigne’s essay Of Custom and not easily cahnging an accepted law. The point of the essay is that we don’t realize how much of what we do is a matter of custom. In the beginning, he seems to suggest that this is a bad thing, writing that

the principal effect of its power is, so to seize and ensnare us, that it is hardly in us to disengage ourselves from its gripe, or so to come to ourselves, as to consider of and to weigh the things it enjoins. To say the truth, by reason that we suck it in with our milk, and that the face of the world presents itself in this posture to our first sight, it seems as if we were born upon condition to follow on this track; and the common fancies that we find in repute everywhere about us, and infused into our minds with the seed of our fathers, appear to be the most universal and genuine; from whence it comes to pass, that whatever is off the hinges of custom, is believed to be also off the hinges of reason; how unreasonably for the most part, God knows.

What follows is a litany of crazy customs from other lands. The lists include a lot about sex and eating. Then he turns to the Church. I thought to myself, “Wow, is this guy going to recognize the cultural impact on religion in the 1580’s?” Uh, no. On the Reformation he writes,

For my own part, I have a great aversion from novelty, what face or what pretence soever it may carry along with it, and have reason, having been an eyewitness of the great evils it has produced. For those which for so many years have lain so heavy upon us, it is not wholly accountable; but one may say, with color enough, that it has accidentally produced and begotten the mischiefs and ruin that have since happened, both without and against it; it, principally, we are to accuse for these disorders:—

He then further disappoints me with this interpretation of Christianity:

The Christian religion has all the marks of the utmost utility and justice: but none more manifest than the severe injunction it lays indifferently upon all to yield absolute obedience to the civil magistrate, and to maintain and defend the laws.

Absolute obedience to the civil magistrates don’t get you hung on cross, my friend.

So, Montaigne recognizes that so much of what we do and believe is the result of custom, and that it is difficult to change such things, even if we perceive them; but then he concludes that this is probably okay. In fact, he prefers to leave things alone, unlike those dirty Protestants. Fair enough.

UPDATE: English Major’s Junk Food also has some things to say about Montaigne. I think the words of an English major are infinitely more trustworthy than those of a lawyer.

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ALL are welcome at the Table

We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world. As a part of the Body of Christ, we welcome all to the Lord’s Table, as God has welcomed us. ~ Disciples of Christ Statement of Identity

This statement seems quite consistent with Campbell’s rejection of exclusion. It seems consistent with the priesthood of all believers concept in the Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery. And it seems to unambigously call Disciple congregations to welcome people into the Body of Christ regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

I recently read an trascript from a pastor stating his objection to accepting gay people into full membership and leadership in the church. The pastor took pains to demonstrate that he did not hate gay people, and in fact apologized for his Christian brothers who had caused such harm to gay people. He structured his talk by focussing on truth and grace. The truth part was an effort to justify opposition to the GLBT community with Biblical citation. The grace part was about the need for Christians to have an attitude of love toward gay people.

Surely there were similar good people who could not accept the role of women in leadership. Surely there were similar good people who could not accept interracial marriage. But eventually, the real truth broke through. And now, Christians are ashamed of Biblical justifications of oppressing women and racial minorities.

It is time for all Disciple churches to read this statement of identity, to search their hearts, and to stand up for the radical inclusion called for by our church tradition and, indeed, the ministry of Jesus Christ.

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Christian Libertarianism

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) was formed by the union of two movements. One headed by the Thomas & Alexander Campbell. The other by Barton W. Stone. (Which was always a cool name to me because I had Grandma & Grandpa Barton and a Grandma & Grandpa Stone.) My last post concerned a story from the Campbells. This one examines a key document to the folks in Stone’s movement–The Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery. The main body of the document begins with a call for an end to divisions within the Christian Church Universal:

We will, that this body die, be dissolved, and sink into union with the Body of Christ at large; for there is but one body, and one Spirit, even as we are called in one hope of our calling.

Of course, I suspect many churches would agree that Christians should be one, which can be easily accomplished if everyone would just shut up and accept the one true theology that the particular church preaches. That was not the path suggested by Stone’s followers. Instead, they hoped,

that our power of making laws for the government of the church, and executing them by delegated authority, forever cease; that the people may have free course to the Bible, and adopt the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.

and

that candidates for the Gospel ministry henceforth study the Holy Scriptures with fervent prayer, and obtain license from God to preach the simple Gospel, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, without any mixture of philosophy, vain deceit, traditions of men, or the rudiments of the world. And let none henceforth take this honor to himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.

and

that preachers and people cultivate a spirit of mutual forbearance; pray more and dispute less; and while they behold the signs of the times, look up, and confidently expect that redemption draweth nigh.

and

that all our sister bodies read their Bibles carefully, that they may see their fate there determined, and prepare for death before it is too late.

There are several other stanzas, although I closed with the final one. There are two basic ideas that one can pull from this document. One, the Bible and not tradition is the authority that should drive our thinking, and, two, each person, church and pastor is empowered and required to decern the meaning of the Bible for themselves.

Driving for unity this way, not by demanding one theology but by empowering all to find their own theology, is what I am call Christian Libertarianism. I think the notion is captured well in the motto, “In essentials unity, in nonessential liberty, in all things charity.”

I believe this Christian Libertarianism in which the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is so deeply rooted is yet another reason why it is natural for Disciple churches to open to people who are other than heterosexual and affirming of those same people. One’s sexuality is certainly not an essential to being Christian. It is a topic not mentioned by Jesus. Indeed the notion of being gay or straight or bi, that is the idea that one has a sexuality, must post-dates the Bible.

And, liberty in this nonessential is to allow full participation in the church without regard to it. Those who believe it is a sin to get divorced, to have sex with a member of your own sex, or to have sex for reason other than reproduction, should also be allowed full membership in the church.

And, we should direct charity toward those who disagree with us, whatever our belief.

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Rejecting Exclusion

Inclusiveness is at the core of Disciple theology. A story nicely illustrating this is that of Alexander Campbell and the communion token. Although many traditions celebrate the Lord’s Supper with every meeting, the Presbyterian Church, to which Campbell belonged, only did so once a quarter or less. Shortly before the church held its communion service, the minister would examine members of the parish and issue them a communion token, often with his initials on it, to ensure acts and beliefs were acceptable.

In May 1809, Campbell’s church in Glasgow prepared for a communion service. The minister and elders visited the various members to determine who among them could receive a communion token. Campbell found it difficult to accept that which appeared to be “man-made judgments fostering divisions among Christians.” He believed that no human could sit in judgment of another’s spiritual worthiness.

A plate was passed around the table to receive the communicants’ tokens. After providing the token, they could partake of the Lord’s Supper. When the plate came to Campbell, “he threw his token upon the plate handed round!” He then stood up and walked out of the church.

The ring of that token, as it fell from his hands, like the ring of Martin Luther’s hammer on the door of the Wittenberg cathedral, announced the renunciation of the old church ties, and marks the moment of which he forever ceased to recognize the claims or authority of a human creed to bind upon men the conditions of their acceptance with God.

Thomas W. Grafton, Life of Alexander Campbell, p. 40-41). [What I’ve written so far, is just a sample of the well cited piece by Author Al Maxey. His essay, which includes much more detail, including a discussion of U.S. State governments minting communion tokes, can be found at: http://www.zianet.com/maxey/reflx148.htm]

This story has always meant to me that radical inclusion is in the DNA of Disciples. I don’t know if Campbell objected to the particular criteria required to receive a communion token. I suspect he did not. But the notion that we mere mortals should deny someone access to the Table was intolerable for Campbell. It is easy for me to extend this notion of inclusion to embrace those who fall in love with members of their sex. It is easy for me to extend this notion to those who were born with the sex organs of one gender, but are, in their hearts, members of the opposite gender.

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Random

Two demons worked in concert to derail my Great Book reading schedule. Reblais and Solitare for my iPod. I have decided to give up on Reblais and move on to his countryman Montaigne. I am now woefully behind on this year’s schedule, but not so much so as to give up. And, Montaigne actually dabbles close to work relevance.

* * *

I am also writing a 3-5 page essay arguing that the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) should welcome non-straight people into full participation in the church, and without asking them to mask or change their sexual identity. The paper is intended to argue that this is natural extension of what it means to be an Disciple, as in an adherent to this particularly branch of the Campbellite movement.

* * *

I am also working on five little keynote addresses I will be giving to church campers the last week in June. The topics are provided to me. I know the short excercises and the stories I intend to tell. Now it is just a matter of how much detail work to do ahead of time on fleshing out the stories and how much room to leave for the spirit to move. (That’s Jesus-speak for wininging it.)