Progressive Methodism: Founded on Love, Part 1

"Christianity is a lifestyle - a way of being in the world that is simple, non-violent, shared, and loving. However, we made it into an established "religion" (and all that goes with that) and avoided the lifestyle change itself. One could be warlike, greedy, racist, selfish, and vain in most of Christian history, and still believe that Jesus is one's "personal Lord and Savior" . . . The world has no time for such silliness anymore. The suffering on Earth is too great." Richard Rohr(1) 
A couple of weeks ago, in the flurry of responses to the monumental mistake made at the Special Session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church, I wrote a post affirming several basic points about what I think should characterize a Progressive Methodism as part of a Progressive Christian movement. Today I want to focus on the first affirmation, "Love." What I wrote in that post was:
It is all about love.It begins with love.Its basic characteris…

Is the UMC an Old Car?

When I was in graduate school in the mid-90s, I drove a 1980 Toyota Corolla. It had a standard transmission, manually-operated windows, and no air conditioning. But it was fairly dependable for the decade I drove it. During graduate school, it got me between Salem, Oregon, and Berkeley, California, at least once a month, as I returned home to see my family. The drive North and South could be a trial during the Summer months, especially in the Central Valley when the temperatures reached 115°. Not having air conditioning was a problem, so I figured out a system wherein I wrapped an ice cube in a bandana and wrapped it around my forehead, and drove with the windows down. The rapidly-evaporating ice cube cooled my head, but I had to add a new ice cube every rest stop. But it worked.

It was not a glorious or glamorous car, but it got me dependably between Point A and Point B. I used it to take my German student friends to experience the Redwoods and to drive down Highway 1 to Claremont to …

Being Progressive: Some Affirmations

PROGRESS Noun: a forward or onward movement (as to an objective or to a goal) : ADVANCE 3: gradual betterment especially  : the progressive development of humankind; and the verb: : to move forward : PROCEED 2: to develop to a higher, better, or more advanced stage. (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)In a previous post, I stated that it is time to talk about becoming a Progressive United Methodist Church. I am ambivalent about starting yet another denomination or setting up yet another institution that will need to do all the self-preservation things that institutions do. But I do know that it is important to talk about what it means to be Progressive as Methodists and as Christians.

Given the definition of Progress above, it should be clear that to speak of “Progressive Christianity” should be redundant. The fact that we have to use “progressive” as a qualifier of “Christianity” gives witness to the fact that all too often, a Christian veneer has been placed upon some of the most hein…

Metamorphosis and Such

(Copyright First United Methodist Church, Portland, Oregon)

Today, I attended worship at Portland First United Methodist Church. I was in town taking my youngest offspring to the airport to fly to Germany for a semester study abroad. Since I stayed overnight at my mom's house, she and I decided to drop in on the worship service to hear what the senior pastor, Rev. Donna Pritchard, a colleague whom I admire and enjoy very much, would say. In spite (or because) of her vital presence at the emotionally-draining General Conference in St. Louis last weekend, she remained the consummate pastor who spoke the Good News to all of us whose hearts were broken by the actions of the Special Session.

The text for this Sunday was the story of the Transfiguration as told by Luke in Chapter 9:28-36. She reminded us that the glory of Jesus was briefly shared with three of his disciples, one of whom would deny him, and others who would run when he was arrested and tried. Jesus knew what he was getting…


One of the actions of the recent Special Session of the United Methodist General Conference was to codify and sharpen sanctions and punishments against UM clergy who perform same sex weddings and UM Bishops who ordain “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals.” These sanctions and punishments are not found in Bible, but only in the politically-inspired machinations of the Book of Discipline. 

The Rev. Robert Renfroe, who is President of Good News, which is funded and backed by
the Institute on Religion and Democracy insisted: 
“...the traditionalist side is not trying to push out those who want full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in The United Methodist Church. But he said the violations of the Book of Discipline need to be halted. “Live by our covenant,” he said. “If you can change our covenant, then you can change it — but if not, then you have to live by it, or then the church has to enforce it.”  In other words, the actual issue is who it is that writes the rules of the United Methodist Chur…

Shaking the Dust

On February 25th, United Methodist delegates to our General Conference Special Session voted to preserve the status quo of our Book of Discipline's current bans on ordaining LGBTQ clergy and officiating at or hosting same-sex marriages. While I am not surprised, I am deeply disappointed. There was strong support for a plan (called the One Church Plan) that would not force any pastor or church to perform same-sex marriages, nor did it force anyone to change what they believe about the Bible, but would allow individual conferences to decide if they would ordain LGBTQ pastors, as well as allowing churches to host and pastors to officiate at same-sex marriages. In other words, instead of allowing for theological differences around 4-5 verses in the Bible (the only references to homosexuality found in the Bible, and two of those are disputed as to whether they refer to homosexuality at all), the theological and political right wing of the church muscled its way to force its interpretat…

The Tree of Life

This Last Sunday, I started wearing the necklace and pendant in the picture above. It is something that I assembled myself.  I am wearing it all this week in solidarity with the victims of the shooting, and all victims of the violence that hatred breeds.

I told my congregants that I am wearing this necklace because the medallion that it holds is a Tree of Life medallion. The Tree of Life is found in the first book of the Bible, Genesis, where it is situated in the middle of the Garden. In the Christian Scriptures, it is also found at the end of the final book, the Book of Revelation. There, in the midst of the New Heaven and the New Earth that God brings about is the New Jerusalem, which is constructed not by political power and domination, but by Truth, Justice, Mercy, Grace, and Love. In the center of that New Jerusalem is a wondrous Tree, again the Tree of Life, whose leaves are for the healing of the peoples - all peoples. So at the beginning, the Tree of Life stands, and at the en…