Friday, July 22, 2011

Circle of Protection

Yay for the leaders who put together the "Circle of Protection" and went to see the President. How can we continue to fund war & weapons while the most vulnerable bear the cuts of programs that barely help them stay alive? Please God, open ALL our eyes~!
"...we told the president some good news about how a Circle of Protection has formed in response to this crisis. It is now the most unified and broadest coalition of churches that any of us has ever seen -- and is endorsed by our brothers and sisters of other faiths and secular organizations who also work for low-income people.
We made our simple principle clear: The most vulnerable should be protected in any budget or deficit agreements -- as a non-partisan commitment. The most vulnerable need a special exemption from all spending cuts as they usually have had in previous times of deficit reduction. We told President Obama that this is what God requires of all of us." (see link above for full article on SoJo"

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Doing in the Heat

I look outside at the still trees and am grateful I get to stay in today. I've spent hours on the church website and created a church related blog that are supposed to be linked but I can't see how. So hard to make things work... So it's time to walk away. At least the "conversation" below is cross-posted at the website, the blog listed on the site from the pulldown menu, and the blog at whew. Now I hope we get some comments back.

meanwhile, our "twitter host for the week" began tweeting from @Arlingtoncob and from the beach, YEAH! I hope she is having a blessed week already!

Now, back to the laundry.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A New Conversation #1

(cross posted at
I want to begin a conversation that has several parts to it. I hope by posting on this blog page, we will be able to discuss together what it means to live in these time, to be people who follow the ‘Jesus Way’ 2000 years after he lived, and learn from each other as we ‘talk’ using the medium of the web. For now, I have no way to enable comments here, but I’m working on it. So please, email me, call the office, tweet a comment (@ArlingtonCoB) and let me know what you think.
Conversation 1: It’s Not About You
While there are few congregations that cannot stand some improvement, much of what is being faced and experienced by many mainline Protestant churches is not about them. It is about the end of an era, a sea change in the religious ecology of North America and the role of congregations in our society. American Christendom is over. While this may not be news to most clergy, it remains news for many in our congregations. Church leaders need to do a better job of helping their congregations understand what is meant by “Christendom” and what that era meant in terms of church role, Christian formation, mission, and the role of clergy. The end of Christendom means that congregations must learn anew how to do adult Christian formation. Too highly rational or intellectual congregations need to rediscover spirituality. They need to reencounter both mystery and a living God.
The above is quote from Anthony Robinson’s article “Changing the Conversation” at I like to talk about it with you, readers, members of ACoB, and friends.
What does it mean to be at the end of an era where Christianity reigned?
How scary will be “re-encountering mystery”?
What will our congregation need to do to live in this post-Christian world while still being a witness for Christ?
Let’s talk about it.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Getting Over It - (sigh)

(Sigh) What a way to begin this post, right? (Sigh)
I've been talking with a dear friend about Annual Conference. Also listening to the 'spin' that comes with each of our interpretations. I have been so glad to see how forthright the conference coverage has been from the official source. It is refreshing to see an honest addressing of our difficulties and open reporting of our differences. Annual Conference Coverage There was also a recent email about the death threat to one of our members.

What isn't on the official site, is the undercurrent created by those outraged that a man, Bob Krouse, was nominated from the floor of conference and elected over the two women who had been chosen by the Nominating Committee and affirmed by Standing Committee. What is also not stated is that in every ballot 'contest' where a woman was running against a man, the man was elected.

At a conference where the theme was extending Jesus' table, we certainly seemed to spend a lot of time taking leaves out of the CoB table. It's getting ever smaller in here.

We could say it is also getting more unified. In my most cynical observations, the straight, white, male brothers who were NOT excluded from conference events, should be looking pretty unified at this point. Like I said, cynical, aren't I? (sigh)

I also do believe what I wrote in the sermon (previous post, see below) that God is 'still sowing' and can use even the rockiest, thorn-infested ground to accomplish God's harvest. Perhaps, even though God can use such 'rotten' ground, God doesn't have to like sowing among the thorns, huh?

I guess I'm not 'over it'. (sigh) But there is a group of welcoming, affirming, good-hearted sisters and brothers at Arlington CoB. We are not of one-mind on gay-marriage. We don't all read the scripture one-way. We don't all like the same version of the Bible. We don't all like the same kind of music in worship and out. We don't all look alike, we don't come from the same cultures, or background. Many have a history with the Church of the Brethren. Many do not. They just put a priority on relationships. They believe in living their love; in the congregation and outside of it. These people 'feed me' and keep me sane, when I get twisted up in a currently thorny denomination.

So I SIGH with relief that I've been welcomed into ACoB and partnered with such good people in ministry. It the best environment anyone could pray for, TBTG!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Taste Of Annual Conference

This years’ Conference them was “Extending Jesus' Table.”
The worship services were excellent times of joyous celebrations. We spoke and sang of Jesus’ way of reaching out to everyone, especially those who were at the margins of society.
Preachers reminded us of the stories of scripture where great miracles of feeding occurred because Jesus had compassion for the crowds.
The wonderful metaphor was one of the table; the fellowship around tables at family gatherings when extra leaves had to be added in order for there to be enough room.

We heard reports of our peace witness.
We were reminded of our diversity as many new fellowships were welcomed to the ‘body’. Some were predominantly Spanish congregations, others came from different ethnic backgrounds.
And we together celebrated the work the Church of the Brethren has been given as servants who continue Jesus’ work; peacefully, simply & together.

But I have to admit, there were times when it felt like leaves were being removed from the table, not added - and those times made it hard to sing hymns that announced, “All are welcome here.”

My Pre-conference ministers’ event was focused on becoming more  intercultural and it led to many of the experiments you see in today’s bulletin.
I wondered how to share the good news I heard at the BVS luncheon from the Hiroshima Peace Center. I hope that later this month Jordan Blevins will share news from the Peace Conference in Santa Domingo and Kingston as he and Ruthann Johnson did during their reports to conference. These reports reminded me of the New Testament letters where Paul or some other missionary reported back to the Jerusalem body all the news of the exciting happenings on the mission field.

I suppose if Everett and I wanted to share a Real taste of conference, we would have brought you ice cream. Because tradition held this year and there was a build your own ice cream bar every night.
  Our tradition had something to teach the folks employed in Grand Rapids. When I first arrived, I wandered around the hotel getting my bearings. It was a big double lobby. The older building had the largest gold in-laid ceiling in North America. The newer side had a tall glass tower, where I stayed.
   While I wandered I found a small restaurant that looked like a little diner inside. It was back in a corner of the old lobby. After you entered, you saw a sports bar that was at a sunken level filled with screens showing every sporting event on TV.
  I wandered down there and found a lonely bar-tender. She asked when people were arriving for the convention. I told her I was early but most would arrive on Saturday.
   She asked if they would be coming in on Saturday evening after they arrived…I said, “well some might come in,     FOR FOOD….”
            I wasn’t sure how to break the news that this might not be the biggest group for bar revenue.
            On Tuesday night I looked into the restaurant to see if any place was still open for food. The sports bar had the doors closed and was dark. The hotel had wised up, and had shipped all the staff over to the main lobby, bar – from which they had removed the alcohol and replaced it with ICE CREAM. …… They learned how to deal with Brethren in town.

As united as Brethren are when it comes to ice cream, our diversity of beliefs surfaced again and again over queries and statements.
We have some Basic differences in the Body of Brethren.
And it’s not just how we feel about the questions of the day, but we have some basic theological differences.
I heard the question, “Did JC come to "save souls" or save lives?” echoed in different ways.
While some shared the perspective that we needed to get back to scripture, others asked

How you answer the question of social justice involvement is indicative of your theology. We can all find Bible texts, ancient church writings, and even theories of atonement to justify our side.

I couldn’t help but wonder how we could hold these different ideas together in one body. Then I had a conversation with the owner of Grand Rapid “roundabouts”. Jon was the owner and driver of the single car enterprise that transported me from and back to the airport.
            He shared his story of being raised in a mid-west conservative family and conservative church. He believes in reading the Bible literally. BUT, he said, he ALSO appreciates the metaphoric interpretation of scripture.
            Before I could ask, he said, he held them together in his head, separated into two sides, like two voices he listened to and learned something from each. . .

            I told him, we have a Conference paper like that. It’s a paper on how to interpret scripture. It has two columns stating different ways of reading scripture and at the end says, we, the Church of the Brethren are not of one mind when it comes to reading scripture.

Today’s scriptures from Matthew and Romans have been read and interpreted in a variety of ways. The ancient Greek dualism comes thru Paul’s writing about the separation of flesh and spirit. It’s a concept many of us have moved beyond to a more holistic belief that God trusted humanity enough to incarnate the Divine in a human being, named Jesus.

If we look at Jesus’ parable about the sower, we begin wondering,

Who are we in story? Who is God in the story?

One of the sources I use for study asked, “Who qualifies as good soil?” That question came across my electronic news right during one of the discussions about welcoming persons of different sexual orientations into the church. I wondered if we could answer it, or should we try?

It seems clear to me that in this story, God is sowing.

All 3 synoptic gospels carry this story of ‘the sower’. Matthew names it thereby putting the emphasis on the farmer.
 I’m sure you’ve heard it interpreted in a number of ways.
For some, the story seems to be a focus on failure. You can add up the negative situations and there are more environments that are unwelcoming to the seed than those where the seed flourishes.
Some say it’s a story about waste. They point out the hostile environment where some of the seeds land.

Others point out that Jesus’ is really saying that God's word will thrive and grow to miraculous levels even when it is sown in unpromising places.

When you put the story back into the context of Matthew’s story, we do see that Christ is one who sows recklessly, investing even in unpromising people like the disciples who fail again and again to ‘get with the program’.
            If we fast-forward to Gethsemane, we know the men Jesus chose as leaders will even run away and dissert Jesus. And after he is raised from the dead, what does he do? Does he go recruit another bunch?
NO, he calls the deserters back together, tells them, “Meet me in Galilee,” and entrusts the WHOLE FUTURE OF HIS MISSION TO THEM.[i]
God is sowing. In this case God is the mad sower, indiscriminately broadcasting seed EVERYWHERE!

Looking closer at the story and trying to find ourselves, we realize that sometimes we don’t get a choice of what kind of soil we are.
Or if we are the seeds being planted, we don’t get to choose the soil where we land.
Whether soil or seeds, we have to deal with what we’ve got, the grit, the rocks, the roots and the weeds that threaten to choke us.

But God is still sowing. Perhaps the importance is not on who we are, or what kind of soil we are, but on trust in the sower. . .

Growth is always possible.
The results of the planting are God's worry not ours. We have enough trouble trying to grow around the weeds and rocks.

And seriously, Jesus not telling dirt it should try to be better.. See how ridiculous that sounds?[ii]

Instead, our assurance is that God’s word WILL produce an abundant harvest.

Jumping over to Romans we find that Paul's message is not a condemnation but a word of grace, "8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in X Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death… that we may walk περιπατουσιν according to God's spirit….

That ‘walk’ is the Greek word peripatusin, it means more than walking, it means LIVING.
Our life walk-  is to allow the seed sowed in us to grow. (Whether the potential is in the seed or in the soil) it is sowed in ALL of us to bear fruit. The fruit of the one who sent Jesus.

That’s why Paul’s good news chapter begins with, “There is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION FOR THOSE WHO ARE IN CHRIST Jesus.” 8:1 (repeat)

This is truly good news, for all of us.

I find hope in this parable because I have felt as hopeless and hapless as the disciples.
I wonder at times what hope is there for a church . .a denomination like ours. . and so many others . . then I look at what God was able to do with those disciples…
            Choked with doubt,
                        Hiding under rocks
                                    As dried up and lifeless as sand.

God is sowing. And the results are amazing.

One night at conference, after a very hard day. Where harsh words had been shared. And young adults on the twitterverse were asking how and when they would ever have a voice in the church, we recessed and I walked to the back of the huge hall.

            There in the back was a semi-circle of 6 or 8 wash tubs and chairs. Young adults and those ‘self-titled’ as progressive brethren, were washing feet and sharing the embrace of peace.
I wondered how hard it had to be to wash the feet of the one who just threw rocks in your garden.
            And I knew God is still sowing.

As for me, I am discerning what it means to be called to grow right where I am.
I have to discern how to walk/peripatusin/to walk justly, while I love compassionately, AND walk humbly with our God..
and with you.

I can tell you that YOU witness to me with your openness.
            Your welcome and compassion impress me with your willingness to let relationships & love trump opinions and uncertainty.

Walking with you and Your Powerful Witness, I find hope, even in unproductive soil, because GOD KEEPS SOWING EXTRAVAGANTLY.

So I can leave the burden of results to God, and I, -- WE can work AND BLOOM where we are planted – ever watching for God to surprise us with the miraculous gift of abundance.

[i]Elisabeth Johnson, pastor in Watertown, MN
[ii] ibid

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

THE Vote

The process is on-going. Meaning, the "Body" I'd amending, voting, amending, deliberating, and a few of us are tweeting. Brother Chris Bowman did an excellent job of setting context and perspective this morning in the Bible study. I felt the atmosphere inside me change, lighten, perhaps be lifted by the holy spirit. Now, sitting in the non-delegate section, after votes, statements, and such, the spirit sems thinner, above us perhaps, not within. But I confess to my own perspective, which I can't claim as the word of God.

We each have a perspective. The old 70's song, "walk a mile in my shoes" would be nice, but how can I really do that? And so it appears that the body remains divided. We await the FINAL vote on the Standing Committee recommendation, as amended by Bro. Jim Myer. If adopted, we are done and both the Statement of forgiveness and confession AND the Query on the language against same-sex covenants, WILL BE RETURNED. Which means NOT adopted.

There will be the SC recommendation, as amended, on our "books" and the language of the 1983 paper will be affirmed. It is 11:05 am and amendments are still being proposed. Please follow on-line if you can.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Seeking Common Ground

Ok, so Standing Committee says congregations may continue to WELCOME anyone to come worship. No mention of church leadership. They did mention that many congregations ignore AC statements about including women in ministerial leadership, and approving militarism, (or lack of opposing violence). And that ignore AC statments such as thise can be done without punitive action. I struggle to get the language of these answers. The minute statements are tough but needed for "the body" to hear each other.
Sounds like the only answer is to not answer, "we can now stop trying to change each other." = statement at mic.
Now 'concerns' are at mic(s).
" redo human sexuality paper."
"SC recommendation is a stumbling block"
Jim Myer; a respected voice in all quarters. He has acted with integrity even when he disagrees.
"concern with glaring contrast of conference theme (Extending Jesus' Table) and the recommendation of returning the query."
On going concerns are indicated by long lines at all the mics.
Concern for connection to polity so people know what to do when they leave.
Moderator rules out clapping following speeches.
Scripture offered along with faith statements

I think I'll publish this because it's getting too long for the page I'm working on.
Looks like the conversations will continue for a bit. Please forgive typos.

Tuesday Afternoon

Standing committee asks that future conversation occur but not in the form of forwarding Querys to Annual Conference.
This is wise from the point of the "body's" wariness of this issue. It doesn't address the denominations current position of inequality. Is there a way that we can drop below the AC level to allow congregations or districts to act with justice?

"congregations may continue to invite whomever they choose into leadership without fear of punitive action." I think I just heard that

Monday morning

I'm cross posting short updates on tumble, " a daily dose of N FITZ" still learning the ways of tumblr. The iPad doesn't seem to like photos on tumblr. It seems to know I don't have a hard drive from which to upload. Hmmm I will seek an alternate way. After all that's what Jesus' followers do, right?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Blogging from ANNUAL CONFERENCE Business

What else to do when you are in Conference business, not a delegate, and have free WIFI? (thanks BBT). You can find the Standing Commitee's recommendstions for both the special response items, and other business items, on-line. They will present their recommendation on the special response items tonight, but no action will be taken then. Currently- Josh Brockway just presented the Congregstionsl Ethics Study Committee's report. Issue is for the future, the recommended future changes (and added work) will come to the entire body, but since Office Of Ministry intends to bring paper next year for ministry revisions (1st reading), any changes to Congregstionsl paper (thus polity) should be coordinated to land on a different year. Now an extended break so we sing. Maybe I should turn from this blog to tumbler for these updates? Hmmm