Shuck and Jive

Monday, March 31, 2008

Speaking of Big Gay Weddings

Fran and Dr. Monkey are blog friends with these super people who had a big commitment ceremony over the weekend. I mean huge. Over 500 people. And the media! It was at Penn State and State College Mayor, Bill Welch, presided over the deal.

Of course it wouldn't be a big, fun, gay wedding if the Christians weren't around.

It inspired the Pennsylvania Family Values Coalition, a conservative Christian group, to hold a counter rally afterward.

The only opposition came from Orthodox Christian Fellowship, a Penn State student group that lined the HUB entrance, sang softly,

and held plaques depicting Jesus.

A few dozen people celebrated family values and traditional marriage in front of the Old Main steps....“This isn’t a protest,” said Gordon Hampton, a Faith Baptist member videotaping the rally.

“It’s really to stand up for God.”

Despite the true Christian spirit of those well-wishers, the commitment ceremony for the two gay and two lesbian couples concluded with a standing ovation.

Congrats Delia and Kat!

No Nukes in Oak Ridge!

Got this from Bill and Ann Myers of Knoxville of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance (OREPA). Big doin's there weekend after next. Here is the announcement:

Friends of peace,

When's the right time to stand for peace and the abolition of nuclear weapons?

How about when you also get to listen to David Rovics, live and in person, Sean McCollough, Nick Boulet, Larry Osborne, Phil Pollard, and Ganasita?

Still not sure? How about when you also get entertained by the masterful theatre of the OREPA puppetistas AND the Eggplant Faeries?

It's all happening SUNDAY, APRIL 13, starting at 10:00am at Alvin K Bissell Park in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. It's OREPA's April Action for peace, back after a three year hiatus. This is our BIG peace action this year, shifting from August.

It's also our twentieth anniversary—did you march with OREPA on August 6, 1988? Our theme is simple: Claim the Future: Disarm NOW.


This is a crucial time. Leaders around the world are beginning to talk seriously about concrete proposals to lead to nuclear disarmament. We have never heard this kind of talk before—it's important we show the depth and breadth of our desire for a world free of nuclear weapons.

The peace rally at Bissell Park should last until 1:00 or so, and then we'll march to the Y12 plant for an action there.

* * * OTHER EVENTS * * *

If you've admired the giant puppets and smart theatre of OREPA's puppetistas and said to yourself, "I wish I could do that…"


A weeklong puppet workshop will be held in South Knoxville from Monday, April 6 - Friday, April 11 with a rehearsal at Church of the Savior in Knoxville on Saturday the 12th (probably around 4:30). Everyone is welcome to join in, from complete novices to master puppeteers. Call 609 2012 for directions and details.

The full-fledged nonviolence workshop is back! Starting with registration at 9:30 am on Saturday, April 12 at Church of the Savior (934 N Weisgarber Rd, Knoxville) and going until 4:00. We'll do skills training, reflection, history, and role playing. We'll go over plans for Sunday's action in Oak Ridge. We'll have music and food and drink (lunch and dinner are being arranged). We'll have a wonderful community and great trainers. Everyone welcome.

We need volunteers who will help us keep things organized and peaceful for the action—peacekeepers. We'll do a peacekeeper training at 7:00pm on Saturday, April 12 at Church of the Savior (934 N Weisgarber). Veteran peacekeepers and first-timers are welcomed.

OK. Before you go, you can get your non-violence training this weekend at First Pres. We had a couple of last minute cancellations, so there is space for you April 4-6. Then you can take your new non-violent self to Oak Ridge!

I must say, however, that the Eggplant Faeries sound a tad unnerving.

Have you seen Ben's BBs recently? He has been trying to lose them.

My Big Fat Gay Wedding

Rev. Jane Spahr is going to church court on April 25th.

This is the final appeal in front of the PC(USA)'s equivalent of the Supreme Court, the
Permanent Judicial Commission of the General Assembly.

Here is the article in the Presbyterian News Service.

Janie did the dastardly deed of performing weddings for two lesbian couples.

How did she end up getting taken to court in the first place?

Oh, here it is:

The charges against her were sparked by an inquiry from the Rev. James Berkley, a member of Seattle Presbytery who is currently director of Presbyterian Action, an arm of the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

Janie is a gem. Win or lose she knows who is really on trial. In her words:

“My sadness is that I feel I am not on trial but the church that raised so many of us to live loving and caring lives is on trial,” Spahr told the Presbyterian News Service in a written statement. “The church is on trial for forgetting and wrongly judging its very own children — the church which raised us to love.”

Hallelujah, sister.

From Tennessee LEAF

To those interested in preserving our environment and beautiful mountains please voice your support now for LEAF's ( Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act (SB 3822/HB 3348). The act is needed to place more of the necessary authority in the hands of our local government so that it is able to pass and enforce local regulations to mitigate the risks to our state's environment and the beauty of our land. Our state's tourism is largely dependent on our mountains, and tourism accounts for 81,000 jobs and $241 million in tax revenue in Tennessee.

LEAF received a favorable opinion on Tuesday from the Tennessee Attorney General's Office and is on the calendar Wednesday, April 2, for a very important House Environment subcommittee followed by the Senate committee on the same day. If the bill does not pass the House subcommittee, Senate supporters will never get to vote on the legislation.

Please call, write, or e-mail the House subcommittee members and the Governor:

John C. Tidwell (615) 741-4324

David Hawk (615) 741-7482

Joe McCord (615) 741-5481

Frank Niceley (615) 741-4419

George Fraley (615) 741-8695

Phil Bredesen (615) 741-2001

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Peace Pic

Who the heck is this peacenik? Better report him ASAP.

Vanity, thy name is Shuck and Jive.

PFLAG Tri-Cities and Women On Air

WETS is starting their spring fund campaign next week. One of the programs, Women On Air, which airs tonight and every Sunday from 9-11 pm, would be a good partner for PFLAG.

The host Susan Lachman is really cool and supportive of lgbt issues.

This is her new logo for the show.

Anyway, PFLAG volunteers can answer phones for the pledge drive during her show next Sunday night. Whaddya say? It will be fun!

Good for Women on Air.
Good for WETS.
Good for PFLAG Tri-Cities.

E-mail me if you can make it,

Susan sez:

we'll be havin some party-tude next one else in the studio but WOA

Check out her show tonight!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Lecture at the Acoustic Coffee House

Thanks to ConcernedTNCitizens for hosting this lecture:

On Wednesday, April 2, Concerned TN Citizens will present a lecture by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis entitled "Why We Can't 'Win' In Iraq" at 7:00 pm at the Acoustic Coffeehouse (Next Door), 415 W. Walnut Street, Johnson City.

Dr. Fitsanakis holds a PhD in Political Science and is an author, lecturer, and activist. He is the founder of Democracy Now! Tri-Cities and a member of Concerned TN Citizens. He has lived and studied in four countries and has taught and lectured at King College in Bristol.

We hope you will join us for this noteworthy and enlightening event.

Many thanks to Jim & Lori Benelisha for allowing Concerned TN Citizens to use Next Door.

A Little Old Lady from Wisconsin...

A First Presby, who shall remain nameless, sent me this. Sounds like a yarn, but good:

A little old lady from Wisconsin had worked in and around her family dairy farms since she was old enough to walk, with hours of hard work and little compensation.

When canned Carnation Milk became available in grocery stores in approximately the 1940s, she read an advertisement offering $5,000 for the best slogan. The producers wanted a rhyme beginning with "Carnation Milk is best of all."

She thought to herself, I know all about milk and dairy farms. I can do this! She sent in her entry, and several weeks later, a black limo pulled up in front of her house. A man got out and said, "Carnation LOVED your entry so much, we are here to award you $2,000 even though we will not be able to use it!"

Why A Pastor Supports PFLAG

This is a note to my congregation that I posted in the April 2008 issue of our newsletter. I thought I would post it here as well so you can know why I am an advocate for PFLAG.

Dear Friends,

I am excited to report that a new chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) has now formed for the Tri-Cities area. It is called PFLAG Tri-Cities and covers the area of East Tennessee. The first meeting will be Thursday, April 17th at 7 p.m. in room #503 in the Warf-Pickel Hall (College of Education building) on the campus of ETSU.

Among the various ministries in which I have engaged in my nearly 16 years of ordained service, ministry to glbt people and their families has been one of the most controversial. Even more than my views about politics and theology, my public advocacy for sexual and gender minorities has raised eyebrows the highest.

I will tell you why I do it.

I have seen high school students disowned by their parents. I have seen the results of emotional and physical abuse. I have seen people shunned by their churches all because people do not understand or are afraid to embrace the complexity of human sexuality.

I have also seen families come together and people increase their awareness because clergy and congregations have opened their eyes and their arms and have spoken clearly that homosexuality is no more a sin or an illness than heterosexuality. The way we treat people is the important thing.

It means a great deal to me to pastor a congregation that does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. I hope that some of you will be able to participate in the work of PFLAG Tri-Cities. I make a special invitation to straight allies. Their work is crucially important. They have more freedom than many lesbian and gay people do to speak out for fairness.

If you cannot participate in person, perhaps you will support the work of PFLAG Tri-Cities financially. You can contact me to find out the specifics. Our first meeting is April 17th. Please get the word out.

If people ask why PFLAG? Why do this? Tell them it is about healing families.

You can find out more about the work of PFLAG by going to and the work of PFLAG Tri-Cities by going to

Let us work for a world in which all people can live in peace and freedom.


Our Peace Workshops in Johnson City Press

Many thanks to John Thompson for this article in today's Johnson City Press about our Creating a Culture of Peace workshops. John visited the workshop we held in March. We still have a few openings for the workshop coming up this next weekend, April 4-6 and even fewer places for the workshop on the 18-20. This is good stuff.

Workshops to focus on peace
Church to offer program that will concentrate on peacemaking on all levels.

Elizabethton Bureau Chief

ELIZABETHTON — “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”

For two weekends in April, First Presbyterian Church, 119 W. F St., will conduct workshops that say peacemaking is possible, even in this time of violence.

Creating a Culture of Peace is described as a program on “the spirituality and practice of active nonviolence that helps us discover our own power for change and that teaches peacemaking skills and principles.”

These will be the second and third times the workshop has been offered by the church.

Gary Barrigar attended the first workshop on March 7-9. He said the workshop focuses on peacemaking at all levels, from families, to neighbors, to communities and the world. As an environmentalist, he found its teachings even applied to “making peace with the Earth.”

Barrigar does not see peacemaking as a passive response. He said nonviolence has been used to achieve some of the greatest victories in history. Christ and early Christians used the methods to overcome the pagan Roman Empire, Gandhi used them to overcome the British Empire and Martin Luther King and his followers used them to overthrow segregation.

The workshops will be led by trained Creating a Culture of Peace facilitators who have experience in working with groups. The training is highly participatory, drawing on the wisdom, experience and talents of the participants.

While the training is at group level, Barrigar said it helps the individual participants “get in touch with ourselves,” and discover internal causes of strife. As James 4:1-2 says, most fights and quarrels are caused by conflicts within the individual.

Those internal struggles lead to ever escalating turmoil, Barrigar said. “Through violence, all we do is create more violence.”

Within the last four years, Creating a Culture of Peace has traveled to 36 states and Palestine, trained thousands of participants and 300 trainers and has been adopted by national and regional faith groups and Veterans for Peace.

The next workshops will be held Friday through April 6 and April 18-20. The sessions run from 6-9 p.m. each Friday, 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. each Saturday, with two breaks for meals, and 1:30-7 p.m. each Sunday. The cost is $20 per individual, $30 per couple and $10 for youth (14-18).

Barrigar said demand for the workshops has been great. The first workshop was filled almost before word got out. Each workshop has space for 30 participants.

To register, call 543-7737. Registration forms are also available online.

A couple of my atheist peacemaking friends have asked me if this is religious. I can say that it is certainly not sectarian. It is spiritual, using principles of spirituality from a variety of traditions including secular humanism.

I am not an atheist, but I think atheists would feel comfortable. We have had in attendance, unitarians, vegetarians, and pastafarians.

If you are interested in the workshop coming up next weekend, e-mail me at

Here is information about our facilitators.
Here is info about the founder, Janet Chisolm.
Here is the information sheet in PDF.
Here is the registration form in PDF.
Here is a list of our sponsors.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Develop a Culture of Gratitude

Congregations sometime can spiral down into a culture of complaint. A few individuals who like to complain about everything bring down the congregation with negativity. Most people usually do not know how to respond to this. Often, statements of negativity toward the pastor or the leadership go unchallenged. This ends up being destructive to the congregation and its ministry.

About midway through my ministry, I heard an excellent piece of advice to respond to this spiral of negativity. Begin to develop within the leadership, and among people who do love their congregation and who are loved and respected members, a conscious and conscientious culture of gratitude.

It is quite simple. When someone makes a generalized complaining statement in a committee or a group about the church or its leadership, respond with specific things that are positive about the congregation. Negativity can be turned around when people speak out positively, immediately, and specifically. For every negative, respond with three positives.

Our denomination has been under attack for some time by outside groups such as the IRD (who I have been posting about recently) and the Layman. Most of this negativity goes unanswered. When people do not respond to this negativity it spirals. It is as disastrous for a denomination and its ministries as it is for a local congregation.

Recently the Layman has been attacking Presbyterian Disaster Assistance with unfounded accusations and innuendos.

The Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is one of the best things the PC(USA) has going. If you are unfamiliar with the PDA, check out its website and get involved.

A few weeks ago, Jim Kirkpatrick of our presbytery's campus ministry, offered a slide show of what campus students have been able to do in the gulf because of the PDA. They have taken several trips to the Gulf and have made a difference in the lives of real people. Jim said that the people who have been hit by the ravages of Katrina are most especially grateful to see the PDA.

Thanks to Candy Reid, program director of Peace River Presbytery for this letter today to the Layman:

I usually just read your articles and shake my head and move on, but this article on the work of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance could not be ignored.

You see, our area received much help from PDA when, in 2004, Hurricane Charlie devastated our area. Hurricane Charlie blew through our area on Friday, Aug. 13. Many, many folks lost their homes or their homes were severely damaged. We could not locate folks in many churches. Six of our churches were badly affected, with First, Punta Gorda losing their whole building. Chapel by the Sea effectively had the gulf sand and water "relocated" to their sanctuary.

On Sunday, Aug. 15, as we gathered together, dirty because there was no water or electricity, we did so with PDA staff present in the most severely hurt areas. They offered hope and financial gifts immediately.

On Monday, Aug. 16, our presbytery was overwhelmed with help of all kinds from PDA. This help continued for the next two-and-a-half years with many, many monetary gifts but, more important, gifts of self through personnel, volunteers and direction. We could not have recovered with the help of PDA.

For you to continue to attack the work of PDA is an outrage. How can you continue to find fault with the Presbyterian Church (USA) over and over again is beyond me. But how dare you suggest that money is not being spent in the right way. You go and work and see what is done and learn how you have to figure how to stretch the dollars to get the most help for people. Talk to others who have worked in the Gulf Coast and in Peace River Presbytery. We in Peace River Presbytery are grateful for the work of PDA and the PCUSA.

Candy Reid
program coordinator
Peace River Presbytery

It is time for people to speak up for our denomination and for the good work it does, such as the work of the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. We can turn negativity into positive action.

At Least Folks are Thinking...

Not to take credit or blame for everything that happens in the world, but our Evolution Sunday celebration and corresponding article in the newspaper is still generating letters to the editor. That is a good thing. Agree or disagree, at least people are thinking. Here is one in today's Johnson City Press:

Science, religion

Through science, which includes considerable confirming research since Charles Darwin, I have come to accept the basic premises of evolution. This mental step has required some changes in the traditional interpretation of the story of creation found in the Bible.

Any interpretation is based on the knowledge one has at the time. Too often however, many think that the interpretation is what the Bible says.

Efforts by religious groups to hold on to outdated interpretations have made those groups anti-educational and a few educators and scientists anti-religion.

Genesis 2:7 says “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life: and man became a living soul.”

Based on current knowledge, it could be that until God breathed into the nostrils of Adam and Eve, they were mere animals like any other, evolving over millions of man years. And, the breathing could have occurred as late as 10,000 years ago.

Cain went out and found a wife so there were more families than that of Adam and Eve.

I see no argument between science and religion. God created the laws of nature and science is in the process of discovering what those laws are.

Press Release for PFLAG Tri-Cities First Meeting



John Shuck

PFLAG Tri-Cities Chapter Forms

Johnson City, Tennessee A new chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) has formed to serve the Tri-Cities area. PFLAG Tri-Cities will hold its first meeting Thursday, April 17th at 7 p.m. on the ETSU campus in room #503 of the Warf-Pickel (College of Education) Building.

Several counselors, academics, and clergy persons have seen the need for education, support, and advocacy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning persons and their families in East Tennessee. This first meeting will brainstorm ideas and set the direction for PFLAG Tri-Cities.

PFLAG Tri-Cities is a support community for all individuals who are the parents, family or friends of a person who is gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning. Straight allies are also encouraged to take part in our work of making our community safer, more understanding and affirming of GLBT or questioning individuals. If you are a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning individual; PFLAG Tri-Cities is for you, too. The vision of PFLAG is:

“We, the parents, families and friends of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, celebrate diversity and envision a society that embraces everyone, including those of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. Only with respect, dignity and equality for all will we reach our full potential as human beings, individually and collectively. PFLAG welcomes the participation and support of all who share in, and hope to realize this vision.”

If you agree with this sentiment, we encourage you to join us. For more information about PFLAG Tri-Cities, visit the web log


Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) is the nation’s foremost family-based organization committed to the civil rights of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender persons. Founded in 1973 by mothers and fathers, PFLAG has 200,000 members and supporters in more than 500 chapters throughout the United States. To learn more, please visit or PFLAG Tri-Cities at

Thursday, March 27, 2008

New York Conference Petition on the IRD

Winifred also sent me the text of the petition from the New York Conference of the UMC regarding the IRD. This is much stronger than the Southwest Conference petition.

This is long. I will save it on the sidebar. Not knowing much about the Methodist tradition, I found this document interesting on a number of levels. It is certainly well-drafted and as you read through it, you may as I did, find some fascinating parallels with what the IRD is also trying to do in the PC(USA).

On the Institute On Religion and Democracy

Whereas, the Institute of Religion and Democracy (IRD) claims that it is “an ecumenical alliance of U.S. Christians working to reform their churches’ social witness, in accord with biblical and historic teachings, thereby contributing to the renewal of democratic society at home and abroad,”(1) and it was “founded in 1981 to promote reform of America’s mainline churches, with a special focus on their political activities.”(2)


Whereas, according to Right Web, a program of the International Relations Center,(3) the IRD’s mission to renew democratic society at home and abroad has in practice involved advocating U.S. military interventionism and global supremacy and attacking Christians who do not support their mission:

The IRD has evoked religion and morality to promote militant anticommunism and the conservative variety of internationalism advanced by the neoconservatives…For more than two decades the IRD has advocated U.S. military interventionism…The IRD was a leading advocate of U.S. military aid and intervention in Central America and the Caribbean during the Reagan administrations, and it routinely challenged the patriotism and the belief systems of Christians who didn't share its militarist and interventionist spirit. When the IRD wasn't criticizing the Protestant denominations for being soft on Communism, it was charging that they were anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli…In addition to the Protestant denominations, the IRD considers the National Council of Churches (NCC) and its counterpart World Council of Churches to be instruments of liberalism and secularism…Its mission of "reforming the Church's social and political witness, and building and strengthening democracy and religious liberty at home and abroad" has closely followed the evolving neoconservative foreign policy agenda—from militant anticommunism to post-Cold War U.S. global supremacy…(4)


Whereas, IRD’s “special focus” on the “political activities” of the mainline denominations, including the UMC,(5) is designed to effectively eliminate the UMC’s social witness and UMAction’s agenda would:

• end all giving to organizations unless they share UMAction’s understanding of the UMC’s faith
• abolish the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS), and
• re-write the UMC’s Constitution to remove the authority of General Conference to write and revise the Social Principles or to speak prophetically on social issues unless the majority of UM laity have already reached consensus on those issues, thereby precluding the UMC from speaking prophetically.(7)


Whereas, the UMC’s social witness is an integral characteristic of the UMC, growing out of John
Wesley’s historic focus on social holiness as expressed through his understanding that the essentials of Christianity begin with the Royal Law,(8) Jesus’ commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves, which is reflected in both the Old and New Testaments (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 19:19; Matthew 22:39; Mark 40 12:31; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8).

Whereas, the IRD’s agenda is being advanced this year through their numerous sample annual conference resolutions which, amongst other things, include calls to:

• cut the General Board of Church and Society’s funding by at least 25% in the next quadrennium;
• affirm using assent to the doctrinal standards as a criteria for membership;
• reduce the General Conference representation of the Western Jurisdiction; and
• cut funding to the National Council of Churches.(9)


Whereas, in an internal document prepared in 2000 after General Conference, the IRD described why they see the United Methodist Church (UMC) and other mainline denominations as useful tools to advance their agenda and detailed their “special attention” to the UMC; this focus is a result of what they perceive as the disproportionate influence these denominations have over U.S. society.(10) In this same document, the IRD stated:

The mainline churches, the bulwark of the Religious Left, have been a powerful influence in American life throughout the 20th Century…For nearly the last 20 years, the IRD has worked to discredit and diminish the Religious Left’s influence and we have experienced significant successes in our efforts….In the largest mainline church, the united Methodist Church [sic], conservatives are gaining ground…The Good News movement, the United Methodist wing of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, and many of its bishops and tall-steeple pastors have taken over the church’s governing body…Our growing outreach over the last five years…was significantly responsible for perhaps the most productive General Conference in 40 years [in 2000]. UMAction helped to defeat pro-gay initiatives by margins of 2-1 or more. Our initiative to…overturn the church’s official pacifism stance to a stance that acknowledges Christian approval of the resort to force in some circumstances [was also successful]…Delegates to the General Conference also voted to reapportion the composition of future General Conferences so that declining (and liberal) regions of the church such as the northeast and west coast will receive fewer delegates. Growing (and more conservative) regions such as the southeast and overseas churches will receive more delegates. This will help ensure that conservative trends on sexuality and a whole range of issues will continue at future General Conferences.


Whereas, UMAction claims that it “defends traditional Christian beliefs and practices in the spirit of the father of Methodism, John Wesley”(11) but, in contrast with Wesley’s teachings, seeks to greatly increase the emphasis placed on doctrine in the UMC, through its stated agenda to:

• require UMC members to affirm not just the membership vows but the entirety of the Doctrinal Standards as listed in the Discipline;(12)
• make the Council of Bishops responsible for enforcing and upholding these Doctrinal Standards;
• require all general agency staff to affirm the Nicene Creed, the Apostles Creed, and the Athanasian Creed, regardless of the relevance to their job responsibilities and in spite of their skills and qualifications; and
• require all UM seminary faculty to affirm the same, raising doctrine above skill and competence in the criteria for selecting persons to educate our church leaders and teach them critical thinking skills.(13)


Whereas, John Wesley himself demonstrated in his sermon, “The Way to the Kingdom,” that this agenda is at odds with his thoughts and thus does not line up with “the spirit of the father of Methodism, John Wesley”:

...although true religion naturally leads to every good word and work, yet the real nature thereof lies deeper still, even in the 'the hidden nature of the heart'. I say of the heart. For neither does religion consist in orthodoxy or right opinions; which, although they are not properly outward things, are not in the heart, but the understanding. A man may be orthodox in every point; he may not only espouse right opinions, but zealously defend them against all opposers; he may think justly concerning the incarnation of our Lord, concerning the ever blessed Trinity, and every other doctrine contained in the oracles of God. He may assent to all the three creeds--that called the Apostles', the Nicene, and the Athanasian--and yet 'tis possible he may have no religion at all, no more than a Jew, Turk, or pagan. He may be almost as orthodox as the devil (though indeed not altogether; for every man errs in something, whereas we can't well conceive him to hold any erroneous opinion) and may all the while be as a great a stranger as he to the religion of the heart.(14)


Whereas, in that same sermon, Wesley continues to expound on this in following paragraphs, including defining his understanding of true religion to include righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Wesley defines righteousness as made up of "the two grand branches thereof," the two greatest commandments: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all they heart, and with all they mind, and with all they soul, and with all they strength" and "thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."(15)


Whereas, Wesley taught in his sermon, “Catholic Spirit,” that what matters, what is essential, is that our hearts are right; that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; that we love our neighbors as ourselves. And as long as we are in agreement on these things, “although a difference in opinions or modes of worship may prevent an entire external union, yet need it prevent our union in affection?(16) Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences. These remaining as they are, they may forward one another in love and in good works.” (17)


Whereas, Wesley further explained, “’If it be, give me thine hand.’ I do not mean, ‘Be of my opinion.’” “I do not mean, ‘Embrace my modes of worship,’ or ‘I will embrace yours.’” “I mean, first, love me.” “I mean, secondly, commend me to God in all thy prayers; wrestle with him in my behalf, that he would speedily correct what he sees amiss and supply what is wanting in me.” “I mean, thirdly, provoke me to love and to good works.” “I mean, lastly, love me not in word only, but in deed and in truth.” (18)


Whereas, in seeking to advance their agenda, the IRD and its UMAction Committee have used hardball tactics,(19) including
• using controversial issues, including homosexuality, as wedge issues;
• seeking to drive out persons they do not agree with, including calls for liberals to leave the
• misrepresenting their distorted, inflammatory, sensationalized, and sometimes deceptive
commentaries as factual news accounts of issues and events in the Church in a way intended to
mislead and manipulate their audience;
• using such a piece, written by Mark Tooley, to attack the 2006 session of the New York Annual
Conference and characterize it as “more like a rally than a church convention;”(21)


Whereas, the IRD and its UMAction Committee, led by Director Mark Tooley, are not related to the UMC and are not accountable to the UMC or its members through General Conference or a representational and elected Board of Directors—a charge (unaccountability) they often throw at denominational leaders who are democratically elected and who are accountable to various constituents and Boards of Directors.(22)

Therefore, be it resolved, that we condemn the hardball, deceptive and divisive tactics of the Institute on Religion and Democracy and its UMAction Committee.

Therefore, be it further resolved, that we call for the following actions:
• Good News/RENEW and The Confessing Movement to cease their partnership with the IRD
• all caucus groups not to use the same kinds of hardball tactics exhibited by the IRD
• all United Methodists not to support the IRD and to reject the agenda it works to impose on the
UMC and the tactics it uses to advance them.
• the IRD to disband its UMAction committee and cease its efforts to impose its agenda on the
• all parts of the UMC to engage religion of the heart, in accordance with Wesley’s teachings and
the example of Christ, and join hands together so that we may move forward together in love and in good works.

Therefore, be it further resolved, that, in order to facilitate this joining of hands, we call on all parts of the Church to engage in study and dialogue on Wesleyan theology, specifically in regards to Wesley’s understanding of what is true religion (and what is not)—religion of the heart with the Royal Law at its center—and how it applies to the needs of the world, as expressed in his concept of “practical Christianity.” In such dialogue, it is hoped that the Church will return to what is essential and most important about our faith and about living as disciples of Christ. It is further hoped that through this, organizations such as the IRD that seek to divide us will fail in their efforts, and we will better learn to love each other and to see Christ in each other, enabling us to then join our hands so that we may indeed move forward together in love and good works.

Therefore, be it further resolved, that at the close of the 2007 New York Annual Conference session, the above resolution be prepared and submitted by the Annual Conference secretary to comply with deadlines and submission requirements for consideration by the 2008 General Conference of The United Methodist Church.

1 See “Purpose Statement,” ; in contrast, the mission of the UMC is to “make disciples of Jesus Christ” (see ¶120, Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church 2004).
2 See, “About UMAction,”
3 See; Right Web, founded in 2003, is a program of the International Relations Center (IRC) that tracks the work of those, in and outside of government, who have been instrumental in shaping or supporting U.S. policies in the global war on terror.
4 See IRD’s profile at
5 This includes committees dedicated to advancing the IRD’s agenda in the UMC, the Episcopal Church, and the Presbyterian Church USA.
6 This would preclude the UMC’s ability to partner with most other organizations on projects that promote our shared goals. For example, if this proposal were enacted the UMC would not be permitted to contribute funding to the hugely successful Nothing But Nets campaign that is working to stem malaria in Africa that we jointly created because the lead organization, the
UN Foundation, does not share the beliefs of the UMC.
7 See items 3, 9, 10, 11 “UM Action Reform Agenda: A Reform Agenda For United Methodists,” They propose that the Social Principles be deleted and re-written “in a process involving local churches;” the current process is that local church members of the Annual Conference elect persons to carry out this duty at General Conference.
8 See John Wesley’s 1750 sermon, “Catholic Spirit,”
9 See, “2007 Sample Resolutions,”
10 See, “The Institute on Religion and Democracy: REFORMING AMERICA’S CHURCHES PROJECT 2001-2004,”, which compares the low percentage of Christians that are members of the mainline denominations (“just under 10% of America’s total church membership”) to their comparative wealth and “remarkably high numbers of leaders in politics, business and culture” including “over one-third of the members of the U.S. Senate.” “In short, despite their fallen membership numbers of recent decades, these denominations are still flagship churches that directly or indirectly influence millions of Americans.”
11 See “UMAction,”
12 See The Book of Discipline 2004, ¶103, which includes over 40 articles of religion and rules; John Wesley’s standard sermons, of which there are dozens and dozens, often even with contradictory theological statements reflecting the development of his theology over time; and Wesley’s Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament, which as it happens, is not currently in
print or reasonably accessible.
13 See items 1, 2, and 5, “UM Action Reform Agenda: A Reform Agenda For United Methodists,”
14 See “The Way to the Kingdom,”
15 Ibid.
16 Elsewhere in this sermon, Wesley elaborated further on the matter of differing opinions, “Every wise man, therefore, will allow others the same liberty of thinking which he desires they should allow him; and will no more insist on their embracing his opinions, than he would have them to insist on his embracing theirs. He bears with those who differ from him, and only asks
him with whom he desires to unite in love that single question, "Is thy heart right, as my heart is with thy heart?"”
17 See “Catholic Spirit,”
18 Ibid.
19 See, “Mainline Churches: Wake-up and Smell the Coffee,” by Frederick Clarkson, Hard Ball on Holy Ground, ed. by Stephen Swecker, and United Methodism @ Risk: A Wake-Up Call, by
Leon Howell.
20 See IRD press release,, which states, “Washington, DC – The United Methodist Action committee of the Institute on Religion and Democracy is urging a “gracious exit” for United Methodists who cannot in conscience abide by the denomination’s official disapproval of homosexual behavior.”
21 See, “Methodists for MoveOn,” by Mark Tooley.
22 See “Officers, Board of Directors, and Board of Advisors,” http://www.irdrenew.
org/site/pp.asp?c=fvKVLfMVIsG&b=356301, retrieved March 29, 2007. Of the primary three mainline denominations that the IRD has directed its attention towards, the UMC is first among them. Nevertheless, none of their officers and only three members of their 18 member Board are United Methodist. Two of the three primary founders, however, are neoconservative
Catholics; about 1/3 of their Board is also often described as neo-conservative Catholics.

Methodists and the IRD

The documentary Renewal or Ruin? posted on the internet yesterday also has a transcript. You will want to check that out on Talk2Action.

My good friend, Winifred, is preparing for the United Methodist Church General Conference.

She said you can tell when an IRD person is at one of the meetings or conferences as they are always well-dressed! I asked her if the IRD was heavily involved with the Methodists. She wrote:

Yes, they are attacking the UMC. When I was at the Church and Society conference last fall, the workshop on sexuality and the Bible was observed by a well-dressed young woman who stood at the back of the room while we were in small groups. Someone asked the leader if he was aware of her and he said Oh Yes.

They show up at all of our events, both official church and those caucus groups like Reconciling Ministries Network and Methodist Federation for Social Action.

She sent me this petition from the Desert Southwest Conference which will go to the 2008 General Conference. I have to get used to the Methodist terminology. But I thought Presbyterians might be interested in what our Methodist friends have to endure. Here is the text of the petition from the Desert Southwest Conference about the IRD:

Book of Resolutions - Request for Study
Whereas, the Gospels of Jesus Christ implore all of God's people to love one another, our neighbors, and our enemies, and all followers of Christ are commissioned to "Make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:16); and

Whereas, the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), and its committee, UM Action, has characterized mainline churches as "The bulwark of the religious left" and has stated that "The IRD has worked to discredit and diminish the religious left's influence"; and

Whereas, The United Methodist Church, desiring to be a faithful witness for Christ in the society and world in which we live, and to be in connection with the larger family of Christ, created the General Board of Church and Society, and the Commission on the Status and Role of Women, and became a member of the National Council of Churches of Christ and of the World Council of Churches; and

Whereas, the IRD’s goals include: "Abolish the (the) General Board of Church and Society, and (the) Commission on the Status and Role of Women," and curtail United Methodist involvement in the National and World Councils of Churches; and

Whereas, The United Methodist Church, in its desire to share the grace of God in Christ with all people, created financial ministries which support the work of our denomination at all levels, supported by the financial witness of United Methodists around the world; and

Whereas, the IRD has solicited and received at least $4,764,000 from conservative foundations outside of United Methodism, and has targeted 50% of its resources at the United Methodist Church; and

Whereas, advocacy for social justice has been and is a cornerstone of Methodism; the Social Principles of our denomination are "A prayerful and thoughtful effort on the part of the General Conference to speak to the human issues in the contemporary world from a sound Biblical and theological foundation" (Book of Discipline, p. 95); and general church boards and agencies have vital roles in creating the powerful witness our Social Principles express; and

Whereas, the IRD’s goals include: "The social principles shall be entirely rewritten…(and) General boards and agencies shall not submit resolutions or petitions to General Conference;" and

Whereas, representation of the Western Jurisdiction at general conferences was reduced by the 2000 General Conference due to IRD supported legislation; and

Whereas, the IRD called the 2000 General Conference "the most productive…in 40 years," in part because "Delegates…voted to reapportion the composition of future general conferences so that declining (and liberal) regions of the church such as the northeast and west coast will receive fewer delegates;" and the IRD is currently promoting an annual conference resolution which would reduce the number of Episcopal areas in the Western Jurisdiction; and

Whereas, UM Action Director Mark Tooley, responding to the Council of Bishops document "A Call To Repentance and Peace with Justice," characterized the Council of Bishops as "Flower children and chronic demonstrators who never really grew up and faced the real sinful world;"
another IRD posting claimed "One of the strongest regiments of this godless army (of the ‘secular left’) is America’s mainstream protestant leaders…the real spirit driving the peace mongering protestant leaders is not pacifism at all. It is the hatred of President Bush and of America itself;" and the IRD has stated, "Irreconcilable differences on essentials are dividing the culture-conforming liberals…from faithful United Methodists…we recommend allowing a gracious exit for those who cannot or will not accept the essential beliefs;" and

Whereas, Paragraph 104, section 4 of the Book of Discipline states:
In the name of Jesus Christ, we are called to work within our diversity while exercising patience and forbearance with one another. Such patience stems neither from indifference toward the truth nor from an indulgent tolerance of error but from an awareness that we know only in part and that none of us is able to search the mysteries of God except by the Spirit of God. We proceed with our theological task, trusting that the Spirit will grant us wisdom to continue our journey with the whole people of God (p. 84); and

Whereas, in its 2003 session, the Desert Southwest Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church stated that the agendas of the Institute on Religion and Democracy and its subcommittee UM Action, were inconsistent with the mission, nature, and theology of the United Methodist Church by adopting a resolution stating the same;

Therefore, be it resolved, That the 2008 General Conference of the United Methodist Church will include this information concerning the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) in the Book of Resolutions; and

Be it further resolved, That the 2008 General Conference of the United Methodist Church shall commission the General Board of Church and Society to create and distribute study materials on the Institute of Religion and Democracy to the to all United Methodist Annual Conferences, the Council of Bishops, the Commission on the Status and Role of Women, the National Council of Churches of Christ, and the World Council of Churches.

Oliver "Buzz" Thomas at ETSU

I just returned from an address by Rev. Oliver "Buzz" Thomas at ETSU. Thomas, a Baptist minister and a lawyer spoke on the constitution, particularly the first amendment, and more particularly, the freedom of religion.

He made a number of points:

  • Religion is one of the few things we kill and die for.
  • America is the most religiously diverse nation in the world.
  • The glue that binds us is not Christianity or religion but the constitution.
  • Many Americans mistakenly think the constitution stipulates that America is a Christian nation.
  • Respecting the right of others to exercise their religion is the key to being good citizens.
  • The American experiment will depend upon whether or not we can live together in peace despite our differences.
He talked about the importance of all people guaranteeing the freedom of others to practice their religion. For example, Christians should advocate for the local Islamic society to build a mosque in the city, regardless of our theological beliefs. That is what is unique and important about our nation.

He is an excellent speaker. He has also written a book,

Ten Things Your Minister Wants to Tell You (But Can't Because He Needs the Job!)

Why The IRD is Bigger than Church Politics

Bruce Wilson just posted an excellent piece on the IRD, Renewal or Ruin: The War on Mainline Christianity.
Well, the IRD does much more than attack the mainline Protestant Churches :

The Institute On Religion and Democracy has recently played a pivotal role in organizing opposition to action to curb Global Warming ; the IRD in fact has a whole website section devoted to minimizing and ridiculing the threat of Global Warming. The IRD also works to advance the antiabortion, anti-gay, and anti-contraception ideologies within mainstream American Christianity. To top if off, the IRD is pushing for war with Iran. (Read More)

Freedom at Risk Tonight at ETSU

Catch this tonight at ETSU:

The Rev. Oliver S. "Buzz" Thomas, Esq.,

Executive Director of the Niswonger Foundation, syndicated columnist, television and radio commentator, and one of the leading experts on religious liberty and the separation of church and state.

"Freedom at Risk: Church and State at Home and Abroad"

Thursday, March 27, 7 p.m.

D.P. Culp University Center Ballroom

Free and open to the public

This lecture series is named in honor of Dr. Roy S. Nicks, former ETSU president and chancellor emeritus of the Tennessee Board of Regents. It is co-sponsored by the Claudius G. Clemmer College of Education, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Educational Leadership Association, and Student Government Association B.U.C. Fund.

For more information, call

(423) 439-4430

Why Steve D. Martin Produced this Video on the IRD

Segments of the documentary expose on the IRD, Renewal or Ruin? are now on-line. I have posted them on Shuck and Jive. Here are two articles by the producer of the film, Steve D. Martin, on why he felt the need to spend his own money on this project.

A Sinister New Wind: Holston and the IRD

Why I Want to Expose the IRD

IRD Tactics

Here is another video to watch on-line about the IRD. It is IRD Tactics: Kenneth Carder. In this ten minute interview, United Methodist Bishop, Kenneth Carder describes his encounter with Mark Tooley and exposes the IRD's tactics of misrepresentation of the positions of denominational leadership in order to raise funds.

IRD Tactics: Kenneth Carder from Steven D. Martin on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Watch this Video on the IRD

Thanks to Faith in Public Life for this. You can watch the 25 minute documentary on the IRD, Renewal or Ruin below. If you are in a mainline church, you should order it to show it to your congregation. I encourage you to take 25 minutes and watch the video. You might want to embed it on your site, too.

"Renewal or Ruin?" from Steven D. Martin on Vimeo.

This is from Faith in Public Life:

Since its beginning in 1982, the Institute on Religion and Democracy has continuously undermined the United Methodist Church and other mainline Protestant denominations by attacking the character of church leaders. This organization, funded by some of the world's most powerful foundations, undermines the witness of the church by fueling controversy to its own benefit.

"Renewal or Ruin?" looks into the IRD's claim that it exists to renew the spiritual life of the church. Researchers, church leaders, and others talk about their findings and experiences with this Washington, DC organization that foments dissention in the body of Christ.

Included on the DVD are:

  • "Renewal or Ruin?", a 25-minute video designed to introduce the viewer to the tactics and intent of the IRD
  • "An Example," a story by Bishop Kenneth Carder about his encounters with the IRD
  • PDFs of articles by top researchers, available for distribution to your class for deeper study
  • An interview with Steven Martin, the program's producer
This program features:
  • Randall Balmer - Bishop Kenneth Carder
  • Frederick Clarkson - Jim Naughton
  • Bishop Beverly Shamana
  • Andrew Weaver - Jim Winkler
DVD's can be purchased here, at

For illustration, the Presbyterian Action staff member of the IRD is Jim Berkley. On his latest post, Doesn't Faith Matter? he does a classic IRD style slam on our denomination by inferring that the denomination is not concerned about "faith" but is purely "secular" as witnessed in its hiring of Martha Clark, the new general counsel for the PC(USA).

The message of Berkley/IRD is that the PC(USA) is not spiritual. The effect of his slam is to paint our denomination in bad light. Create dissent where none exists.

In the video, you will hear that the IRD never has a positive word about the Methodist church. You won't hear Berkley offer a positive word about the PC(USA). Read his posts. Judge for yourself. Remember it is not about Jim Berkley. It is about his employer.

Bible and Jive Update

First Presbys are reading the Bible cover to cover in 2008 as part of our 225th anniversary--225 years of rescuing the Bible from fundamentalism. You can go to my blog Bible and Jive for a guide, synopses, and quizzes. Here is the guide and quiz for April. On-line readers are more than welcome to join us.

Enough of the LayMAN

Tribal Church asks Is Anyone Else Getting Tired of the Layman?

TC reports on typical tactics of the LayMAN:

A couple years ago, my dear friend Beth Sentell was engineering a merger between two small churches. To do something like that successfully is no small feat. Often one congregation is simply engulfed by another, but she and a neighboring pastor managed to do the delicate work of uniting two congregations without losing anyone along the way.

And then, of course, there was the issue of property. They didn’t need two buildings any longer, so they put the church up for sale. After months, they got an offer–a really good offer–from an Islamic Community Center. They sold the property, and figured that the matter was settled.

It was, until the Layman decided that the good laws that govern our good nation (namely that you can’t discriminate against people on real estate deals on the basis of religion) weren’t good enough.

They wrote a story, misconstruing the facts. Among other things, they wrote that the congregation had turned down solid offers from other churches in order to sell it to the Muslims. Soon after the story ran, an anti-Islamic blog reprinted it. And so now, when someone does a google search on Beth’s name, all of this stuff comes up….

You can count on exposure and mocking of the LayMAN on Shuck and Jive. The LayMAN was responsible for fomenting schism in my previous congregation. An agitating group demanded that the session sign on to the fundamentalist Confessing Church Movement and when the session unanimously voted that it was not interested, the LayMAN got a hold of the congregation's mailing list and turned every church member into an unsolicited subscriber.

This is not an evangelical vs. progressive issue. This is between those who love the PC(USA)--(evangelicals, progressives, and moderates)--against the LayMAN and its ilk who want to foment schism and bring down the PC(USA).

Fight back, beloveds.

An Atheist in Erwin?

Here is a fine letter in today's Johnson City Press about evolution.

Rationalize for yourself
Let me start by saying I am an atheist. I am writing in response to all those who have written in to the Johnson City Press recently touting creation over science.

I believe that the science of evolution offers me more of an explanation of how we came into existence than creationism. To think that humans have only been around for only 10,000 years is absurd. It has been scientifically proven that we have been around much longer.

I have never met a so-called Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu or any other religious person that can prove to me that some imagined holy spirit created us. Most reference their religious books and can’t prove scientifically that some sort of god ever existed.

Using the argument that there must have been a creator to design something so complex as the human body is absurd as well. Are people so weak that they can’t use their own rational minds to figure out that isn’t true? When I was younger I tried to believe what I was being taught. I have since realized none of it is true. The Christian Bible as we know it is not a complete book and will never be complete. It is a great work of good reading fiction,
but that’s it.

I know I will get some hateful comments on this, but as an atheist I must speak up. Please use your rational minds to figure out what is true or not.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

April Newsletter On-Line!

Snad just posted our April 2008 newsletter for First Pres., Elizabethton. Check it out to see what is up at the little tree hugging church in the woods. Snad also has an important quiz over at ConcernedTNCitizens. See how well you do.

Author Del Brown Comments

The author of the book, What Does a Progressive Christian Believe? commented on the post I gave to this book. I want to make sure his comment doesn't get lost, so here it is:

John, thank you for setting aside your discomfort with the title long enough to read my book. Thanks even more for the review (forwarded to me by a friend). As you quickly gathered from the Preface, by "a" progressive Christian I meant "this one, the author," but that was not clear from the title alone, I know.

You and your readers might be interested in the discussion of the book forthcoming shortly in the March/April issue of The Progressive Christian.

Thank you, too, for your progressive Christian leadership where it counts. You and your colleagues in parishes are the ones making the difference. I hope some of the rest of us help out a little, even those of us from places like Berkeley!

By the way, are you acquainted with SPAFER (see my Preface), centered in Birmingham but drawing from all over the South?

With much appreciation,

Del Brown

I owe Dr. Brown an apology for misreading the title! I thank him for a marvelous book. It is a good book to remind readers now after we have finished our Easter poll.

Here is the webpage for SPAFER. I am familiar with this organization but I haven't attended any events yet. I hope to in the near future.

Here is an upcoming Fall event on their calendar:
Hal Taussig has agreed to join us next fall September 26-27. Please mark your calendars. The subject will be announced later. Speakers for the spring are under consideration.
I am glad I noticed that so I don't schedule our Jesus Seminar on the Road on the same weekend.