Shuck and Jive

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Flipping in Missouri!

I don't know how many more pics of flipping dolphins are left to find on the interwebs, but I found one that is fitting for the Show Me State.

We need to celebrate a FLIP for Missouri Union Presbytery! They became the 22nd presbytery to FLIP from no yes today with a vote of 43-38!

Give Missouri Union an award!

Also, Western New York continued its support of equality, love, justice, and the biblical way by approving amendment A, 77-44.

The tally is 96-73

There is a possibility of two, maybe even three more flips before we are all done.

Here is the remaining schedule.

Peace River (62-83-1) Flip
Hanmi (1-30) Miracle Flip

Providence (39-48-4) Flip

Kiskiminetas (34-70) Miracle Flip

Monday, May 23, 2011

Everybody's Talkin' 'Bout Peak Oil

Well, Beloveds, It has been too long since your last Peak Oil video. Here is a good one, from about three weeks ago. We are in the zone. World oil production has peaked.

How will you ride the slide?

"Get your flying in fairly quickly."

Your midnight movie.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Good Life--A Sermon

The Good Life
John Shuck

First Presbyterian Church
Elizabethton, Tennessee

May 22, 2011

Luke 16:19-31

There was this rich man, who wore clothing fit for a king and who dined lavishly every day. This poor man, named Lazarus, languished at his gate, all covered with sores. He longed to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. It so happened that the poor man died and was carried by the heavenly messengers to be with Abraham. The rich man died too, and was buried.

From Hades, where he was being tortured, he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off and Lazarus with him. He called out, “Father, Abraham, have pity on me! Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am torment in these flames.”

But Abraham said, “My child, remember that you had good fortune in your lifetime, while Lazarus had it bad. Now he is being comforted here, and you are in torment. And besides all this, a great chasm has been set between us and you, so that even those who want to cross over from here to you cannot, and no one can cross over from that side to ours.”

But he said, “Father, I beg you then, send him to my father’s house—after all, I have five brothers—so he can warn them not to wind up in this place of torture.”

But Abraham says, “They have Moses and the prophets; why don’t they listen to them?”

But they won’t do that, father Abraham,” he said. “However, if someone appears to them from the dead, they’ll have a change of heart.”

Abraham said to him, “If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be convinced even if someone were to rise from the dead.”

I have never liked this parable too much.

For one thing I know that I am more like the rich man than Lazarus. While I can certainly think of people with more wealth than I in this world, there are far more people with less. It could be that I will be in the position of Lazarus someday, but now I am more like the rich man. I eat well every day. There are people like Lazarus who would long for a fraction of the food I consume.

Rev. Martin Luther King preached on this parable. He said,
Dives’ sin was not that he was cruel to Lazarus, but that he refused to bridge the gap of misfortune that existed between them. Dives’ sin was not his wealth; his wealth was his opportunity. His sin was his refusal to use his wealth to bridge the gulf between the extremes of superfluous, inordinate wealth and abject, deadening poverty.
“Dives” is Latin for “rich man” and it was mistakenly regarded as a proper name for the rich man throughout the medieval period. But the tradition of calling the rich man "Dives" has endured, perhaps an unconscious desire to give this rich guy a name. Martin Luther King said the rich man’s sin was that he “refused to bridge the gap” that existed between them.

I may want to think that I am not the rich man; I may want to think that I don’t have what King called “superfluous, inordinate wealth” but I know which of these characters is more like me. I can’t say that I have done enough to bridge the gap either.

Another reason I dislike this parable is that I grew up in a religion in which the fear of hell was ever present. The idea of being tormented or tortured in hell for eternity wasn’t just a fantasy or story, but a reality, a real place in real time, with the fires hot and ready for bad little boys and girls.

Now I don’t believe in hell any more. I think it is a harmful doctrine that has been used to bully people with guilt and fear. It is a fantasy, a fiction, a metaphor.

I am happy that I followed my wife to the Presbyterian Church. I learned there about radical grace.

Nothing we can do can make God love us less.
Nothing we can do can make God love us more.

We don't have to worry about Hell or "being saved" because we are already embraced by God's love. We only need to live our lives and respond to grace with freedom.

I was happy that the Jesus Seminar ranked the second part of this parable, the part where the rich man is tormented in hell and tries to bargain with Abraham as black, or not from Jesus. The first part, the reversal of fortunes, the seminar ranked gray, as in probably not Jesus. The first part, they thought, was a re-write of an older reversal of fortunes story.

The Jesus Seminar is a group of scholars that in evaluating gospel traditions voted red, pink, gray and black on sayings and deeds attributed to Jesus. If a saying or deed of Jesus was voted
  • Red by the seminar, that was likely spoken or done by the historical Jesus in their judgment.
  • Pink, probably so.
  • Gray probably not.
  • Black definitely not.
If you are interested, check out The Five Gospels and The Acts of Jesus. Both are in the church library.

One of the fun, unintended consequences of the Jesus Seminar is that it gave many of us permission to go ahead and vote on the Bible. Don’t like parts of it? Vote it black. You got the power. Of course, the Jesus Seminar wasn’t voting on whether it liked passages or not, but voting on whether a saying or deed was more likely to go back to the historical Jesus.

Nevertheless, I like to vote on whether I like it or not, too.

The "True Bible believers" get their hackles up over that.
How can you pick and choose from God’s Word?!
Well, I just did.

Not all of the Bible in my view, is very good. Some of it is quite bad. Bad theology. Bad ethics. I see no virtue in putting a halo around a bad text. As a minister I have seen people bullied by the Bible. I think the response to that is to demystify it. It is a book written by human beings. It is filled with errors of all kinds. It is filled with ancient superstition and outdated cosmology. It contains fabrications and forgeries, Neither it nor those who beat you with it have power over you unless you give it to them.

Start with the source. Say,
“The Bible from which you get your ideas about me is simply wrong.”
All those passages about hell? Black.
All those weird social injunctions? Black.
Anything that doesn’t feed your Spirit? Black.

Once you do that,
once you give yourself permission to think for yourself
and to make your own opinions about a sacred text,
once you demystify it,
then you can hear it.

If there is any wisdom in the Bible it doesn’t come from it being forced down our throats. It comes, if it comes, from listening with a free mind. I really love this from biblical scholar and author, Walter Wink. He writes about his own experience with the Bible:
"I listen intently to the Book. But I do not acquiesce in it. I rail at it. I make accusations. I censure it for endorsing patriarchalism, violence, anti-Judaism, homophobia, and slavery. It rails back at me, accusing me of greed, presumption, narcissism, and cowardice. We wrestle. We roll on the ground, neither of us capitulating, until it wounds my thigh with “new-ancient” words. And the Holy Spirit is right there the whole time, strengthening us both."
I rail at this passage of Lazarus and the rich man. I rail at the superstition of hell and the fear and guilt it places in the minds of children and adults. I accuse the notion of cosmic punishment for quashing human spirits and for turning God into a punitive authoritarian. I rail at this passage for its simplistic notion that there are only two types of people in the world, the rich and the poor, and that there is an afterlife in which fortunes are reversed. Once I dismiss this passage as having any literal value, then I wrestle with it.

I wrestle with it because there is something here that wants to speak to my free mind about the good life. There is something here that wants to challenge me about what I think it means to be blessed and to be a blessing. There is something here that wants to speak to me about what I value. There is something here that wants me to hear something about wealth and about poverty and about the gates and chasms that are placed between people.

Then there is one of my favorite biblical scholars of late, William Herzog, who in his book, Parables As Subversive Speech, writes that this parable, the whole of it, does go back to Jesus. So there you go.

Herzog sees these characters, the rich man and Lazarus as codes for the urban elite and the expendable poor, respectively. The rich man is dressed like a king and eats lavishly. At his own gate is Lazarus, covered in sores, tormented by dogs, who can’t even get bread that is used as a napkin by the rich man and thrown out as waste.

Nothing is said about the morality of either character. Lazarus is not necessarily pious. He is just poor. The rich man isn’t necessarily bad, just wealthy. It is likely that the rich man is law abiding. He could very well keep the Torah scrupulously, making sure to observe the purity codes of clean and unclean. Lazarus would obviously be unclean.

Both die. Lazarus is taken by angels to be with Abraham, who by the way, was a rich man. The rich man, who may have even modeled his life after Abraham, blessed with abundance as Abraham was is taken not to be with Abraham but to Hades.
  • Whereas Lazarus was tormented by dogs, the rich man is tormented in the fires.
  • Whereas Lazarus could not get a piece of bread from the rich man’s table, the rich man cannot get a drop of water from Lazarus’ finger.
  • Whereas a gate kept Lazarus from the rich man’s earthly paradise, now a chasm keeps the rich man from the heavenly paradise. It is a reversal of fortunes.
When the rich man realizes that he is not going to get relief for himself, he pleads on behalf of his brothers, also apparently, the urban elite.
“Send Lazarus back to them to warn them,”
says the rich man. He is still giving orders. But Abraham says no. He says something very strange.
"They have Moses and the Prophets, they should listen to them."
The rich man realizes that is useless.

Weren’t they good Jews? The rich man and his brothers? There is no reason to think they didn’t listen to Moses and the Prophets. They had been reading Moses and the Prophets all their lives. I have to think they were like the rich man who came to Jesus and wanted to know what it took to get eternal life. Jesus told him to follow the commandments. He said he did, his whole life. Then Jesus told him to sell everything, give the money to the poor and to follow him. The man walked away, grieving because he had many possessions.

It is likely that the rich man in today’s parable as well as his brothers were just as scrupulous in observing the Torah. They ritually washed and observed all the purity codes. They obeyed the commandments. There is no reason to think they didn’t.

The point, of the story, I think, could be that the rich man and his brothers were confused about Moses and the Prophets. Perhaps they were confused when they colored some parts of the scriptures black and other parts red. Maybe they were wrong about which parts should get what colors.
Maybe the purity codes weren’t as important as the parts about compassion and justice.
I wonder if that isn’t the point Jesus was making. If you don’t know which parts of the scriptures are more important than others, than ghosts coming back from the dead won’t even help. If scriptures don’t lead to compassion and wisdom, then why bother reading them?

The rich man read them. He read them as legitimizing his own status. By way of parable, Jesus reversed that reading. He turned it on its head. In so doing he turned the notion of what a good life is on its head. A good life may not be living large. The blessed life may not be one of abundance but something else. What is that else? I think it has something to do with opening the gates that keep people apart.

Since we are honoring our graduates this morning, I am going to close with a portion of a graduation speech. I heard this speech live at Bev’s sister’s graduation from Syracuse University eleven years ago. The speech was delivered by Ted Koppel. I was moved when I heard it. He delivered this speech in the year 2000. Even though the world is somewhat different now than then, his point is still worth considering.

Koppel knew his audience. He was speaking to graduates of Syracuse, men and women who were not likely destined to be Lazarus at the gate. He said:
My concern for you as you leave this place has nothing to do with the quality of your education or the anticipated comfort level of your lives. By most of the standards that can be applied uniformly to most people around the world, you will do well. You have the freedom and the means to travel as no previous generation has done. You have access to more information. Your lifespan should be longer, your health should be better. You have more choices available to you in your leisure time, and because you are educated men and women you are better equipped to compete in the flourishing marketplace that awaits you.
I am not sure if the marketplace is as flourishing now as it was in 2000, nonetheless, it would be more flourishing for them than most others. Then Ted Koppel went on to talk about what makes a Good Life. He said:
But in our eagerness to achieve material success and personal gratification, we seem to have overlooked a disturbing reality. Are Americans really happier today than they were 20 or 50 years ago? And if not, why not? Could it be that we spend so much time focusing our energies on acquiring and achieving that we are losing a little of our humanity?

We are richer as a nation than we have ever been before, and yet there is no enthusiasm whatsoever for foreign aid. We are richer individually and corporately than at any time in recent memory, and yet our charitable contributions across the board are down. Our children have access to more information than ever, and yet most of them know less than our grandparents did when they were the same age.

Some of you surely remember George Santayana's famous observation that those who ignore the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them. Power ebbs and flows. Empires come and go. The Mongols, the Persians, the Egyptians, the Romans, the Greeks, the French, the Germans, the Soviets--they've all had their moments at the center of the world stage, and for some those moments lasted centuries. Eventually, though, power inevitably passes. The question is always, how did those in power use it while they had it?

That is true of nations, and it is true of individuals. You are privileged to live in a time when the United States is the most influential and certainly the most powerful country in the world. But with that influence and power comes responsibility. That too is true of individuals as well as nations. Because we have the means and the tools to help the least among us here at home, we should do it. Not because the government extracts money from us with more taxes, but because voluntarily tithing our wealth is as appropriate today as it was in biblical times.

There is enough food in the world to feed every man, woman, and child; no one should be starving to death. We have not yet found a cure for AIDS, but we surely know how to prevent its spread. Parts of Africa, South Asia, and Russia are in the grip of an AIDS pandemic; that is unacceptable.

If we worry only about ourselves, we will become irrelevant. Your challenge is to turn information into knowledge, and knowledge into wisdom. You can know what is happening in every corner of the world, and with your particular skills and talents, with the wealth and technology and influence available to you at this time and in this place, you can be a force for good. What a challenge, what a joy. Now go do it.
I think Koppel nailed the problem of the rich man in our story.
If we worry only about ourselves, we will become irrelevant.
He is so irrelevant that he doesn't even have a name.

He missed his chance at being a force for good because he settled for what he thought was a good life for himself.

Those who have ears, let them hear.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Rapture in Johnson City

I was interviewed by Madison Matthews about the "rapture" in today's Johnson City Press, Going...Going...Gone?

While the Rev. John Shuck, pastor of First Presbyterian of Elizabethton, considers the doomsday prediction to be silly, that doesn’t keep him from being concerned about the people who have fully bought into Camping’s ideology.

“I’m kind of worried about it, to tell you the truth. I’m worried that people will take this seriously. I think that this illusion has really kind of hooked a lot of people into it,” he said.

The reaction from most Christians to Camping’s prediction has been a sort of collective scoff, but a large number of people — especially in larger cities — have latched onto the belief that when the clock strikes 6 p.m., the world as we know it will come to an end.

“This guy is incredibly fringe. Most evangelicals and those who even embrace the idea of the Rapture wouldn’t go with this guy. I think those people are even embarrassed,” Shuck said. “It certainly makes Christianity look foolish, but a lot of things do.”

The Rapture — the belief that Christ will bring the faithful into paradise prior to a period of tribulation on earth that precedes the end of time — is a relatively new notion compared to Christianity itself, and most Christians don’t believe in it. And even believers rarely attempt to set a date for the event.

Shuck said he’s not surprised by the religious fervor caused by an impending Rapture scenario. He said a belief like this — which features an exact date and time — might come as a quick fix for people, especially in the wake of an economic downturn and other events taking place across the globe.

“An escape to heaven may seem attractive for some,” he said. “I think people like certainty. If there’s difficult times, people like the idea that there’s another place. The idea of being beamed up to heaven and not having to deal with the stuff on earth is attractive during uncertain times.”

But Camping is the latest in a long string of “Apocalypse Now”-minded preachers, a style of preaching that Shuck said is really a remnant of 19th century theology.

“It’s a rather kind of destructive notion with the idea that all the supposed saved ones escape rather than deal with the problems on earth and make it a better place, so that notion of escapism, I can’t see is helpful for society or for Christianity,” he said. Read more
I didn't tell Madison that the real reason I didn't think the Rapture was happening today is because I am Jesus' secretary and he told me via special revelation.

Remember? He won't be back until 2525. Here are Jesus' parting words when he missed the last Rapture on 7/7/07:

Dear Earth Friends,

I know you are disappointed. I am as well. My secretary, John, of 9B8 gamma sector, will fill you in on the details. He is a mensch, I tell you. A little flighty, but he has a good heart. No one is more disappointed than he is about the delay. I have to be where I am needed. A star in Andromeda is about to go supernova much earlier than I expected so I have to rapture those folks first. My job seems to be all about responding to one emergency after another!

Speaking of emergencies, I know that you think that times are perilous on Earth, with global warming, energy concerns, increasing population, Paris Hilton misbehaving and so forth. I tell you the truth, these problems are not as large as you think. You humans have been endowed with reason, compassion, creativity, imagination, and opposable thumbs! You can do it! I have complete confidence in you!

You just need to believe in yourselves! You don't need me to rescue you. You have everything you need within and among you! Even though I am going to be physically out of reach for the next 500 years, I am with you in Spirit! For inspiration, my Sermon on the Mount, is still an award winner. Also, you might want to read some of Tom Robbins's novels. He cracks me up! And what he says is so true!

Here are three things to remember:
  1. Clean up after yourselves.
  2. Don't take more than your share.
  3. Leave Earth in good repair for future generations.
And be lighthearted! Don't you think it is amazing that you even exist??!! Look around you! Enjoy life! You can do it! I have complete faith in you.

The Buddha, Krishna, Muhammed, Pan, Moses, Sophia, Ma'at, Zeus, and all the goddesses, gods, prophets, and demiurges send their love and good wishes. With much admiration...

Your Friend, Lord 'n' Savior,

Now, of course, Jesus is on another erran
d and won't return for 500 years.

But perhaps
al-Mahdi will visit?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Meaning of Life, Part 66

The contemprorary belief that science and technology have freed humanity from dependence on nature is thus a dangerous illusion. It's this illusion that leads so many well-intentioned people to argue that nature is an amenity, and should be preserved because, basically, it's cute. That sort of argument invites the response, just as stereotyped and more appealing to our culture's habits of thought, that hard-headed practicality takes precedence over emotional appeals and nature can therefore be ravaged with impunity.

Yet nature is not an amenity, and the "practicality" that leads people to ignore ecological realities typifies this sort of thinking C. Wright Mills called "crackpot realism," the use of rational means to pursue hopelessly irrational ends. If anything, industrial civilization is the amenity, and it's not particularly cute. Nature and humanity can survive without industrial civilization, but neither industrial civilization nor humanity can survive without nature--no matter how hard we pretend otherwise, or how enthusiastically we stuff our brains with fantasies about electronic reincarnation and the good life in deep space.

We have all grown up, one might say, thinking of nature as an adorable, helpless bunny that some people want to protect and others, motivated by the will to power that is the unmentionable force behind so much of contemporary culture, want to stomp into a bloody pulp just to show that they can. Both sides are mistaken, for what they have misidentified as a bunny is one paw of a sleeping grizzly bear who, if roused, is quite capable of tearing both sides limb from limb and feasting on their carcasses. The bear, it must be remembered, is bigger than we are, and stronger. We forget this at our desperate peril. pp. 16-7.

John Michael Greer, The Ecotechnic Future: Envisioning a Post-Peak World

It's Rapture Eve

And here is a song for it...

Time for Change: OK to Be Takei!

Tennessee has the national spotlight. It is hard to fathom the combination of ignorance and cruelty exhibited by some members of the human species. This was posted today in the Johnson City Press:
NASHVILLE (AP) — A measure that would prohibit the teaching of homosexuality in Tennessee public schools has passed the Senate.

Under the proposal approved 20-10 on Friday, any instruction or materials at a public elementary or middle school will be "limited exclusively to age-appropriate natural human reproduction science." Republican Senate sponsor Stacey Campfield of Knoxville says "homosexuals don't naturally reproduce."

Campfield says current state curriculum is not clear on what can be taught.

The companion bill has been withdrawn from consideration in the House. But its sponsor has said he will bring it up again next year if the Senate version passes.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Tennessee would become the first state to enact such legislation if the proposal passes.

Opponents of the legislation say it would be unfair to students who have same sex parents.
Campfield said: "homosexuals don't naturally reproduce."

Just because a person is gay that does not mean that the equipment doesn't work.

What kind of people elect a person like Campfield?

I wonder about those 20 legislators who voted in favor of this. Are they as ignorant and cruel as Campfield or just so politically spineless that they cannot stand up against prejudice even when the psychological and social well-being of children is at stake?

I am thankful that many folks in Tennessee aren't just sitting around taking it. I am happy to announce a new support group for LGBTQ people and supporters between the ages of 17-22. The group is called
The Change and they meet from 6-9 p.m. for supper, socializing, and support on the second and fourth Saturdays at the Presbyterian Campus House at ETSU.

None of the high schools in the Tri-Cities even has a GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance), so three women decided to start one off-campus. While this age group is 17-22, there is a need for a younger age support group. Perhaps the success of this group will make that a possibility as well.

The group calls itself
The Change as in "be the change you want to see in the world." What is that change? Changing attitudes. Changing hearts and minds. Changing ignorance to understanding. Changing cruelty to compassion.

It is a tall order, but it starts with courageous people saying, "We have had enough."

The next gathering will be
Saturday, June 11th.

Here is the new website (still under construction) and contact information.



6:00 P.M. TO 9:00 P.M.
WHERE: Presbyterian Campus House at ETSU
(1412 College Heights Road, Johnson City, TN 37604)

AGE: 17-21 years of age

This group will meet on the 2nd and 4th Saturday
of every month.

For more information:
Email us at

JCGLBTQ [at] gmail [dot] com

Or you may call Amy

And you are going to love this.

George Takei has posted a very clever response to the Tennessee legislators with a plan for action!

It is OK to be Takei!

It's even OK to be Takei on Twitter and Facebook!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Cornhusker FLIP!!

The good news keeps coming in for Amendment A. It is getting support all over. The entire state of Alabama is on the justice train. Every presbytery in Alabama, North Alabama, South Alabama, and today Sheppards and Lapsley (by a tally of 80-52) approved amendment A!

But that's not all, Beloveds.

Nebraska, the natural home of many marine mammals...

FLIPPED for justice and joy. Homestead Presbytery voted 46-29 in favor of Amendment A.

Let's give those prairie dolphins an award!!

Finally, Los Ranchos voted today as well and voted no, 51-131. When it comes to the justice train, some parts of California are a few coaches behind Nebraska and Alabama it seems.

The tally is 94-69.

Yet to vote.

San Juan is going to vote on rapture day.

For those left behind to clean up the mess left by rapturd Christians, voting continues.

Missouri Union (31-48) Flip
Western New York (66-48) Hold

Peace River (62-83-1) Flip

It would be a joy to get two flips and a hold from that bunch.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

New Book for Thursdays With Jesus

We are beginning a new book tomorrow for our Thursday reading group. The book is called The Long Descent by John Michael Greer. I spoke about it in the April White Spire and here. I will review chapter one via powerpoint tomorrow. So if you haven't purchased the book yet come to the discussion anyway! It is a serious book for serious times.

It does, however, sound a note of hope.

"The choices we make in our turn, the insights we achieve, and the stories we choose to tell in the twilight of our own civilization have the potential to build foundations for the cultures of an age not yet born." p. 223

If you are near our mountain, join us from 10:30 until noon.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

PCUSA Approves Gay Clergy And Thus Brings On the RAPTURE!!

Make sure you thank a Presbyterian for bringing on the Rapture. Now that Presbyterian pulpits will soon be overrun with gays, the Lord surely will return to save the righteous from gay cooties.

It appears the Lord will return Saturday, in fact.

More on that below.

First things first.

The voting on Amendment A continues. I had predicted that this was going to be the day we would get our 87th vote. I was proven wrong. Instead we received our 90th, 91st, and 92nd YES from

  • Des Moines, YES! 64-29-2
  • Charlotte, YES! 162-154-2
  • New York City, YES! 89-31-5
I think West Jersey was going to revisit whatever they did with their tie vote. Who knows.

The tally is 92-66.

Voting on Amendment A after it has been passed is like Hawaii going to the polls in the late afternoon on election night. However, it is good to get as many YESes as possible to show that this is the direction the church is taking. Hopefully, we will get 96 or 97 YESes.

Up next:

Homestead (37-40-3) Flip
Sheppards and Lapsley (77-75) Hold
Los Ranchos (35-143) Miracle Flip

Then guess what?

YES! It's the Rapturd!

Put your Rapture Bloomers on (so those left behind won't get a peek) and then you are ready to blast off and meet Jesus!

Don't forget your pets!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Tale of Two Toll Collectors: A Sermon

A Tale of Two Toll Collectors
John Shuck

First Presbyterian Church
Elizabethton, Tennessee
May 15, 2011

The Gospel of Jesus 13:5-10

Jesus also told this parable:

Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a toll collector.

The Pharisee standing by himself, prayed as follows:

“I thank you, God, that I’m not like everybody else, thieving, unjust, adulterous, and especially not like that toll collector over there. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of everything that I acquire.”

But the toll collector stood off by himself and didn’t even dare to look up, but struck his chest, and muttered, “God have mercy on me, a sinner that I am.”

Let me tell you, the second man went back home acquitted but the first one did not. For those who promote themselves will be demoted, but those who demote themselves will be promoted.

Robert Funk and the Jesus Seminar, The Gospel of Jesus (Santa Rosa: Polebridge Press, 1999), p. 63, Luke 18:9-14.

This parable as Luke has framed it and as the tradition has read it is about the contrast between humility and arrogance. The Gospel of Luke written many decades after Jesus died tells us how we are supposed to read it. Scholars, including the Jesus Seminar think that last line,
"For those who promote themselves will be demoted, but those who demote themselves will be promoted,"
is probably an editorial addition by Luke.

Luke begins the parable by telling us what he thinks was in Jesus’ mind:

Then for those who were confident of their own moral superiority and who held everyone else in contempt, he had this parable.
The issue with that reading is that it refers to types of individuals in the abstract. The Pharisee and the Toll Collector represent types with postures. One posture to emulate and the other to avoid. While that reading may capture some of what this parable might be saying, I think it misses a larger meaning. The parable may invite its hearers then as well as now to rethink some fundamental questions. These questions are:
  • Who belongs?
  • Who is inside and who is inside?
  • Who gets to interpret what the sacred texts say?
  • Who gets to speak for God and offer the redemptive mojo?
  • Who gets to decide of whom God approves and does not approve?
  • Where is the sacred?
  • Where is the holy?
  • Who gets shamed and who is honored?
  • How do our institutions participate in this honoring and shaming?
This parable is not about individual piety. It is a challenge to the legitimacy of the religious power structures. William Herzog in his book Parables as Subversive Speech suggests that it is little wonder Jesus was crucified. A parable about personal piety won’t bother anyone.
Be humble and not arrogant!
Well, of course, yawn.
But a parable that exposes the illegitimacy of a sacred institution, that will get you in trouble.

When we read this parable we immediately think what a jerk is this Pharisee. Listen to his prayer:
“I thank you, God, that I’m not like everybody else, thieving, unjust, adulterous, and especially not like that toll collector over there. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of everything that I acquire.”
Even the most self-righteous busybody won’t say a prayer like that. You may think it, but to pray it out loud? If we say something, we say it in a more politically correct manner. We may say, “Bless her heart” and “There but for the grace of God go I.”

That is a matter of culture and tradition. The prayer of the Pharisee is not atypical. Similar prayers were found in the Talmud. Here is one:
I give thanks to Thee, O Lord my God, that Thou hast set my portion with those who sit in the Beth ha-Midrash and Thou hast not set my portion with those who sit in [street] corners, for I rise early and they rise early, but I rise early for words of Torah and they rise early for frivolous talk; I labour and they labour, but I labour and receive a reward and they labour and do not receive a reward; I run and they run, but I run to the life of the future world and they run to the pit of destruction.
From the Talmud’s point of view, this prayer is not self-righteous or boasting. The rabbi is giving thanks for the privilege to study Torah. Here is another prayer. We may wince when we hear it, but that is only because our attitudes have changed fairly recently that we do so.
“One must utter three praises every day: Praised be the Lord that He did not make me a heathen, for all the heathen are as nothing before Him (Is 40:17); praised be He, that He did not make me a woman, for woman is not under the obligation to fulfill the law; praised be He that He did not make me . . . an uneducated man, for the uneducated man is not cautious to avoid sins.” Scott, p. 95
The prayer of the Pharisee is a prayer within the framework of the rabbi who is grateful that he has been blessed with the privilege of studying Torah.

Our problem is that the New Testament and 2000 years of Christian tradition is already predisposed against the Pharisees. They are the foils against which the figure of Jesus is portrayed. They are the "bad guys" in contrast to the "good guy', Jesus.

We know the rest of the story. Jesus, rather than be seen as a Jew, a critic of his own religion, became a religion. The followers of this new Jesus religion called their book the “New Testament” over against the so-called “Old Testament”. This has led to a long history of discrimination and violence against Jews.

I think that if we are going to read this parable with meaning today, we need to read it not as a critique of Pharisees, the Temple, and Judaism. We need to read it as I think Jesus--within Judaism--told it, as a critique of his own tradition. In that spirit, we need to read it as a critique against our own tradition.

What is the critique?

If the Pharisee represents the institution’s favored son, the toll collector represents the outsider. The toll collector was a low-level employee of a Roman taxation system. It was a subsistence-level job of collecting tolls on behalf of toll contractors. These guys did the actual work and were thus the target for contempt.

A modern analogy today might be telephone solicitors! Everyone hates them. But they are simply the public voice of the corporations that pay them (and don’t pay them much) to hassle you at inconvenient times. We pour our contempt on the phone solicitors, but the hidden ones, the ones making the profits off of these sales, we never see or hear.

Toll collectors were the visible representation of Rome’s oppression. They were as much oppressed as anyone else. Herzog writes of them:
“The toll collector was a convenient target for the Pharisee’s assault, for he was poor, socially vulnerable, virtually powerless, and without honor. A pariah figure considered an “extortioner,” a “swindler,” and an adulterer of God’s law.” P. 188.
A lot of bad names right there.

The Pharisee is an upstanding citizen. He would be the guy everyone would want in their church. We mistake his prayer for arrogance. Bernard Scott says that
“He has only done what the temple map requires of those on the inside.” P. 96
This is the map. This is the way the institution is set up to evaluate insiders and outsiders, good and bad. This may be a first century Jewish map, but we could make our own map. John Dominic Crossan who was a Catholic monk before he left the order, said this parable could be modernized by saying,
“the pope and a pimp went to the church to pray.” P. 94
You can make this contemporary. Who is in and who is out within the Church, for example, today?

The scandal is at the end of the parable when Jesus says that the toll collector is acquitted and the other not. The outsider is in. According to Scott:
“The map has been abandoned. It can no longer predict who will be an insider or an outsider.” P. 97
Scott goes on to conclude:
“This parable subverts the metaphorical structure that sees the kingdom of God as temple. Given this metaphorical system, things associated with the temple are holy and in the kingdom, and things no associated with the temple are unholy and outside the kingdom. In the parable the holy is outside the kingdom and the unholy is inside the kingdom.” P. 97
For Scott, this parable takes to task the institution that legitimizes insider/outsider roles. This is true for the 21st century Christian situation as it was for the 1st century Jewish situation.
In our parable the toll collector stood far off because he was ostracized for his impurity. The Pharisee stood apart probably because he didn’t want to brush against anyone unclean.

He is too clean for the group. The toll collector too unclean, so both stand apart for very different reasons. One stands apart because he is considered a deviant shunned another because he is prominent. This has nothing to do with their individual characters, but with their roles in the institution.

In a sense they are both toll collectors. The toll collector in our parable is a functionary in the Roman system, but the Pharisee is a functionary to enforce the collection of tithes for the temple. That is his big brag. He tithes for the Temple. He collects and promotes this institutionalized system that divides insiders from outsiders.

One of the roles of those within legitimizing institutions is to make and enforce social rules. Who decided all of this clean and unclean anyway? Norms and rules are created to decide who is in, who is out. It is done in a way to further one’s own interests. The enforcement comes in the public enactment, the spectacle of ritual.

This parable is the spectacle of ritual in which the legitimizing figure of the temple, the Pharisee, enacts a ritual of honor and shame to reinforce the temple’s order. We are right with God. We are the blessed ones. The best way to reinforce that is to single out a scapegoat.

The Pharisee publicly shames the toll collector.

Herzog invites us to imagine the scene:
“If the toll collector has stood far off to remain inconspicuous, the Pharisee stands apart to be conspicuous. At the precise moment that the officiating priest is entering the Holy Place to burn the incense, and at the very moment when the people believe the prayer to be most efficacious, the Pharisee steps forward and prays aloud.” P. 186
And what does he pray so the crowd can hear?
“I thank you, God, that I’m not like everybody else, thieving, unjust, adulterous, and especially not like that toll collector over there. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of everything that I acquire.”
Herzog writes:
“The Pharisee has proclaimed his honor while shaming the toll collector.” P. 186.
But it isn’t just about the Pharisee.

It is a spectacle of ritual. It is designed to enhance and reinforce the legitimacy of the Temple and its rules for who is righteous and who is not and what it takes to stay on the righteous train.

What is the toll collector supposed to do now? In order to fulfill his role as the unclean, he needs to slink away in shame. He needs to recognize his place in the scheme of things and leave. Thus the institution will remain “pure.”

Here is the scandal.

The toll collector does not go away.

Neither does he accept the labeling of the Pharisee. Nor does he appeal to the institution and its priests for redress. Instead he speaks directly to God.
“Have mercy on me.”
This is how Herzog puts it:
“If the toll collector had followed the script, he would have left in silence, a shamed man put in his place. But he does not go quietly. Having heard the worst that the Pharisee could throw at him, he cries out, beats his breast, and prays for mercy, the very mercy being made available through the afternoon sacrifice. He refuses to consent to the Pharisee’s shaming but appeals to a higher source. He refuses to accept the labels attached to him, the stigma of toll collector, but speaks directly to God, seeking mercy. He breaks the deafening silence that followed the Pharisee’s effort to reinforce the status quo. He breaks through the intimidation and fear that the Pharisees words have created, and by his actions, he challenges the Pharisee’s reading God’s judgments.” p. 192
Herzog goes on to say:
“The parable provided a model of a figure who refused to be silenced but found his voice in the process of discovering God.” P. 192
This is not a parable extolling pious humility. It is a parable of a person who claims his humanity and his place before God when denied that place by the institution that is supposed to act on behalf of God.

I am going to say that again.

This is not a parable extolling pious humility. It is a parable of a person who claims his humanity and his place before God when denied that place by the institution that is supposed to act on behalf of God.

The institution said, “No.” But he stood his ground and waited for what God might say. The punchline of this parable is that the toll collector was right to do so.

Jesus said ”Yes” to him.

This past week the Presbyterian Church finally ended 33 years of official legitimization of discrimination against gays. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people have been treated as modern toll collectors by the church. Through the ritual of spectacle, preachers and those who represent the religious institution have vilified, ostracized, and labeled as sinners God’s children. They have abused sacred texts and traditions to do so.

The institution of the Presbyterian Church did not take this recent action because it is nice.

It did so kicking and screaming. It was forced to do so because of courageous people who stood their ground and prayed to God,
“Have compassion! See us for who we are.”
In 1973, when I was eleven, a man named David Sindt stood up at the Presbyterian General Assembly with a hand-lettered sign that read,
“Is anyone else out there gay?”
Thus the movement for justice began in this institution, the Presbyterian Church.

I celebrate today, 38 years later, not the church, but the courageous people like David Sindt and the cloud of witnesses who have followed his example of breaking the silence.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Boise FLIPS!

We are still keeping track of the votes for Amendment A. The more YES votes now means the harder to justify going back to bad, discriminatory ways.

The good news today is that the Presbytery of Boise did a FLIPPER, 37-27!

Let's give Boise an award!

Boise is the 20th presbytery to FLIP from a no to a YES.

The tally is 89-66.

Hoping to get the YES vote up in the mid to high 90s.

Let's keep at it, beloveds.

Next up:

Des Moines (52-37) Hold
Charlotte (133-124) Hold
New York City (76-25) Hold
West Jersey (88-80) Hold
Shenango (4-101) Miracle Flip

Amendment A in Johnson City Press

Madison Matthews of the Johnson City Press wrote an article contrasting the views of three clergy in our area regarding the changes in the PC(USA). Decision Divides Local Presbyterians.
Although the Holston Presbytery voted against the amendment in December, the Rev. John Shuck of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, lauded Tuesday’s decision as a major step forward for the way the church has historically handled the issue of responding to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

“Our church’s reaction has most of the time been negative, so taking out official statements that are negative really is important to do, because now we say we really are open and inclusive to people,” he said.

While the new statements don’t outright acknowledge ordaining gays and lesbians, Shuck, an advocate for gay rights since the late 1980s, said the amendment has the practical effect of opening that up to those who may have been waiting for that to happen.

“If you’re going to invest yourself to go through college and then go through three years of seminary, you kind of want to be able to know that you’re going to get a call, and if you’re gay or lesbian that hasn’t been very certain. In fact, it’s generally been negative,” he said.

For the Rev. Louis Imsande of First Presbyterian Church of Johnson City, this decision has more to do with the current church’s views on sexual immorality and temptation.

“Culture is very accepting of different sexual practices, but what the vote was was to remove from the Book of Order the vow that ministers make that says you will be celibate outside of marriage and chaste inside of marriage,” Imsande said.

Replacing language that makes it more accepting in terms of sexual wishes and desires goes against what the Bible teaches, according to Imsande, who voted against the adoption of the amendment.

“I understand the people pushing this through are more on the side of the LGBT’s side of the house,” he said. “The problem that is going to ensue now is that in the more liberal presbyteries, like the Minneapolis one or one in Atlanta, they will be quick to ordain folks who are homosexuals, but then you have your presbyteries like the one here, which is a conservative presbytery, who won’t accept that calling.”

What this creates, according to Imsande, is a larger issue of disunity within the church as a whole. With what Imsande sees as a “watering down” of the ministerial vow, this decision is a step backward for a denomination that was already hurting.

“We’ve lost a lot of large churches and now the process is speeding up to where more churches will leave the denomination,” he said. “The Presbyterian Church used to be a flourishing denomination where we were fairly focused on the calling of Christ. Rather than a Christocentric denomination, we have become an issue-driven church rather than being concerned about the larger issues that are following Christ and spreading the gospel.”

Shuck agreed that the installment of a gay minister within the local presbytery would likely be difficult, but he hoped the decision was a reflection of a larger form of acceptance and change going on in the culture.

While some opponents might say following culture instead of the Bible is the wrong move for the church, Shuck said he believes the Bible can be read many ways. He looked to the abolitionist movement as an example, saying abolitionists had to go against many passages in the Bible that didn’t condemn slavery.

“The culture changed and our reading of the Bible changed and our reading of theology changed. In other words, we’ve adapted. The same thing with the role of women in the church,” he said.

Shuck said he doesn’t think this decision comes down to “culture vs. the Bible.”

“To put it theologically, I think it is a movement of the spirit that is moving us to open our eyes to see more light from the Bible,” he said.

While happy to see change begin to happen within the church, Shuck said he understands the decision will no doubt cause some congregations to leave the church, but he’s also hopeful more will join.

Rev. Allen Huff, Jonesborough Presbyterian Church, agreed, saying they’re all moving forward with the understanding that there will many people saddened and hurt by the decision.

“It will be a very painful change, of course. I’m not jumping and down celebrating, because it will be very, very difficult for people that I love very much, but we have been soul-searching and debating and talking about this issue for several decades now,” he said.

Huff, who voted in favor of the amendment, said there will be many congregations wrestling with what to do now, but he believes the decision was led by God.

“It’s a bold statement of faith. All that the church ever offers is a faith statement, and this statement says that God’s call is given to individuals with gifts for ministry,” he said. Read more
We may have differing opinions on this issue but we are not divided in terms of shared ministry. As I wrote in a letter to my congregation and my presbytery:
I am also aware that some in our presbytery disagree with this action by the church. Our congregation and I value our presbytery community. We are honored to take an active role in the ministries of this presbytery. We are committed to working on those ministries we share in common and to build relationships. We seek also to respect each other's freedom of conscience.
Our executive presbyter, Rich Fifield, posted this on our presbytery's webpage.
While Holston Presbytery (the district of Presbyterian Church (USA) congregations in upper northeast Tennessee) voted to disapprove this change to the Book of Order, we affirm the long-standing Presbyterian commitment to freedom of conscience and mutual forbearance when different convictions about issues threaten to divide us.
You can't ask more than that.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Amendment A in Elizabethton Star

This was in Friday's Elizabethton Star:

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Removes Barriers to Ordination of Gays, Lesbians

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has struck down a requirement that unmarried clergy remain celibate, removing a key barrier for gays and lesbians who want to be ordained.

The Presbytery of the Twin Cities provided they 87th vote this week. Presbyterians endorsed the new policy last year at their general assembly, but needed ratification from the majority of its 173 presbyteries, or regional districts.

Rev. John Shuck, Pastor the First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, said, “This barrier has caused great pain for our church and in particular for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, their family members, and friends. We have lost many excellent ministers and officers because of our discriminatory policies. This change is a major step forward in accepting the diversity and gifts of all people.”

The change will go into effect July 10th, 2011. The denomination has been wrestling with the ordination question since the mid-'70s. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) joins other mainline church bodies. The Episcopal Church, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and The United Church of Christ is open to LGBT people for ordination.

Michael Adee, Executive Director of More Light Presbyterians, an organization that advocates for LGBT people in the Presbyterian Church said of this decision: "More people will be able to live the truth of their lives, parents will talk more about having gay kids and people will come out in Presbyterian churches."

Differences over the Bible and homosexuality have divided mainline Protestant groups nationwide and around the world.

A small number of Presbyterian churches broke away from the denomination ahead of Tuesday's vote, but no major split is expected right away.

The Presbyterian Church is based in Louisville, Ky., and has about 2 million members.

The First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, is one of five More Light Churches in Tennessee and is open to full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the life of the congregation. The congregation is located at 119 West F Street in Elizabethton. Its webpage is

Amendment A on Front Page of Kingsport Times-News

Becky Whitlock of the Kingsport Times-News interviewed a colleague and me regarding Amendment A. She wrote a nice article about it that made Thursday's front page.

Holston Presbytery urges ‘mutual forbearance’ on gay, lesbian pastor issue

Presbyterian Church (USA) on Tuesday became the fourth mainline American denomination to approve the ordination of practicing gay and lesbian ministers.

The Holston Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has encouraged its members to “mutual forbearance ... about issues that threaten to divide us” following the denomination’s vote to approve the ordination of practicing gay and lesbian pastors.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) on Tuesday became the fourth mainline American denomination to approve the ordination of practicing gay and lesbian ministers.

The Rev. Tom Phillips, pastor of Colonial Heights Presbyterian Church in Kingsport, said he thinks the decision won’t immediately affect local congregations.

For the Rev. John Shuck, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Elizabethton, the vote was good news.

“This is news I’ve not only been looking forward to hearing, it’s what I’ve been working for myself,” said Shuck. “I’ve been working to remove these barriers probably since I entered seminary in the ’80s. It’s a historic moment for our denomination.”

That history was made when the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area in Minnesota became the 87th presbytery to approve the measure, called Amendment 10-A, which was approved by the denomination’s 219th General Assembly last summer. Following the 2010 vote, a majority of the denomination’s 173 presbyteries also had to approve the measure before it became official. The Holston Presbytery, which encompasses Presbyterian Church (USA) congregations in upper Northeast Tennessee, voted against the measure.

The Rev. Rich Fifield, executive director of the Holston Presbytery, referred the Times-News to the presbytery’s official statement on its Web site,, which reads in part, and quotes minutes from the 2010 General Assembly meeting:

“Some observers of the Presbyterian Church (USA) will be quick to characterize this change in ordination standards as merely a way of ordaining practicing homosexuals to ministry and leadership in the church. In reality, the rationale for the change is that ‘(t)he integrity of the church demands that those who serve in ordained office meet high standards — always seeking to live according to the life and teaching of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.’ It is hoped that the new wording ‘would maintain high standards for ordination and installation by renewed focus on the (constitutional) questions candidates must answer, but without imposing a single, highly contested interpretation of Scripture on the whole church.’ While Holston Presbytery (the district of Presbyterian Church (USA) congregations in upper northeast Tennessee) voted to disapprove this change to the ‘Book of Order,’ we affirm the long-standing Presbyterian commitment to freedom of conscience and mutual forbearance when different convictions about issues threaten to divide us.”

Phillips said the “full intent” of the amendment was not “solely about the ability to ordain gays.”

“The amendment was really going back and picking up language that the church had used historically to describe those who would be allowed ordination,” he said. “In some ways, I understand that’s almost disingenuous because the folks who put forward this amendment had in mind that it would allow the ordination of gay individuals. But the way it works in the church, the way I’ll explain it to my congregation, we have an enormous amount of local discretion, which is to say that there is no one who is going to tell Colonial Heights Presbyterian that you have to ordain anybody.”

After completing a seminary education, a candidate for ordination in the Presbyterian Church (USA) must pass a nationally standardized exam and then, after having a call to a local church, must be examined by the local presbytery’s committee on ministry.

“Once the presbytery is satisfied that the person has enough knowledge and maturity, then the church proceeds to ordain,” Phillips said.

The Presbyterian Church (USA)’s decision to ordain practicing homosexuals follows the United Church of Christ’s decision in 1972, the Episcopal Church’s decision in 2003, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s decision in 2009. The years following the decisions by the Episcopal Church and the ELCA have seen membership declines in and the departure of numerous congregations from both denominations.

While Phillips thinks there will be those in Holston Presbytery congregations who will not like the decision, he doesn’t believe more than one or two of those will contemplate leaving.

“Will it happen across the denomination? I fear it will,” he said. “I think we spent 20-plus years arguing about whether or not to ordain gay individuals when we should have been out there doing the mission of the church. I’d like to see us get back to the core values of who we are, reaching out in the name of the risen Christ and going about the task of ministry.”

Shuck believes that the way the decision was made — an affirmative vote by the national body followed by votes by local presbyteries — has resulted in a more stable process. However, he said, division does exist.

“We’ve been divided for 40 years. I don’t think this causes division. It recognizes that we have had division all along. ... Membership decline in mainline churches is very complex. You have to have lots of sociologists to explain what it all might mean. To blame it on being open to gays is very simplistic,” said Shuck.

And while Shuck believes some will leave, he also thinks the decision will draw others.

“I think our congregation is a testimony to that,” he said. “Since we’ve been openly affirming, we’ve gained a lot of people. ... It’s a common story: ‘I was out of the church for 40 years, but I can come back because this is an inclusive church.’ It goes both ways. I really affirm this decision. I’m excited about it, and I hope it will reach out to people who have been alienated. I hope this will be a healing moment for the church.”

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Press Release for Ordination Change

I sent our media contacts a press release about the Presbyterian vote.

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Removes Barriers to Ordination

The Presbytery of the Twin Cities became the 87th presbytery and thus cast the deciding vote to ratify an amendment that will remove the so-called “fidelity and chastity” clause in the PC(USA) constitution and open to door to ordination for those who have been excluded by this sentence in the ordination standards:
Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness.
Rev. John Shuck, Pastor the First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, said,
“This barrier has caused great pain for our church and in particular for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, their family members, and friends. We have lost many excellent ministers and officers because of our discriminatory policies. This change is a major step forward in accepting the diversity and gifts of all people.”
The change will go into effect July 10th, 2011. The denomination has been wrestling with the ordination question since the mid 1970s. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) joins other mainline church bodies, The Episcopal Church, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and The United Church of Christ, as open to LGBT people for ordination.

Michael Adee, Executive Director of More Light Presbyterians, an organization that advocates for LGBT people in the Presbyterian Church said of this decision:
"More people will be able to live the truth of their lives, parents will talk more about having gay kids and people will come out in Presbyterian churches."
The First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, is one of five More Light Churches in Tennessee and is open to full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the life of the congregation. The congregation is located at 119 West F Street in Elizabethton. Its webpage is


If you would like more information about this historic milestone, contact Rev. John Shuck at 543-7737 or johnashuck [at] He would be happy to do an interview. You can also contact Michael Adee of More Light Presbyterians at (505) 820-7082 or e-mail michael [at]

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


We did it!

The 87th and deciding vote came in tonight from Twin Cities Presbytery!

Twin Cities voted overwhelmingly in favor of Amendment A, 205-56-3!

Barriers to ordination have been lifted.


The movement for full inclusion of LGBT people began in the Presbyterian Church in 1973, when David Sindt held up a hand-lettered sign at the General Assembly that read "Is Anyone Else Out There Gay?".

Since that courageous moment, we have endured over 30 years of official prohibition.

The Definitive Guidance/Authoritative Interpretation which oppressed the church from 1978-2008 is gone.

Its evil companion, G-6.0106b, has been in the Book of Order since 1997.
Three attempts were made to remove this "b in our bonnet" since then (1997-8, 2001-2, 2008-9).

All failed to pass the presbyteries. Many of us thought we would never get it through the presbyteries. Finally, in 2010-11, tonight, justice was served.

The fourth time's a charm.

Take a deep breath, advocates! This has been an incredible journey. The PC(USA) took the hard path. Our polity made it more of a challenge to remove discriminatory barriers as it needed to pass through the majority of presbyteries in addition to being approved by the national body. But because of that, this change shows that it reflects the will of the whole of the church.

This is not only important for the Presbyterian Church, this is a sign of change that is happening throughout our country. We now join other mainline church bodies, The Episcopal Church, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and The United Church of Christ, as open to LGBT people for ordination.

The struggle continues as I
pointed out yesterday. Here are some helpful FAQs regarding the specifics of what this amendment means.

Today, finally, I can say that I am proud of my denomination.