18 May 2008

A Prayer for Forgiveness

Almighty and Merciful God,we the followers of Your beloved Son and our Savior Jesus Christ bow our hearts and bend our knees as we come before You.

Guiding and Comforting Holy Spirit of the Living God and Resurrected Lord come make us humble as we move to turn our eyes from the evil things of this existence.

Oh Lord, we cast down our idols of man-made traditions of homophobia that we have inherited from previous generations.

As we seek to love and embrace Your gay and lesbian children, please give us clean hands and give us pure hearts.

Let us not lift our traditions above loving one another. For all the wrong brought to our gay brothers and lesbian sisters in Your Holy Name, have mercy on us and on the Adventist community of believers.

Heavenly Merciful Father have compassion on such a weak-minded generation. Help us to understand your leading through the findings of human sexuality research and guide us through the leading of Your Spirit through the ambiguity of human sexuality within Your Holy Scriptures.

Almighty God, let this be a generation that seeks. One that seeks Your face, Oh God of Redemption.

We bow our hearts and we bend our knees, asking the Holy Spirit to come make us humble as we turn our eyes from the evil things of human pride.

Receive our prayers as we cast down our idols of man-made traditions of homophobia. In Your Infinite Mercy and Grace, give us clean hands and give us pure hearts.

Let us not lift our traditions above loving one another.

God of Grace and Power give us clean hands and give us pure hearts.

Let us not lift our traditions above loving one another.

Jesus Christ, may we be a generation that seeks. Merciful God may we seek after Your face and find abundance in your Grace and Mercy. May Your unfailing love be our embrace to one another.

For the sake of Christ's sorrowful passion have mercy on us and on the whole world. For the edification of Your church and the establishment of the Kingdom of the Living God forgive us of our trespasses against Your homosexual children.

Teach us to love one another as You have created us. Give us clean hands and give us pure hearts. Show us to have unfailing love.

Almighty and Merciful God, let us not lift our traditions above loving one another.

For the edification of your church and the establishment of the Kingdom of the Living God forgive us of our trespasses against Your homosexual children and bring us to reconciliation, forgiveness, and unconditional, unfailing love toward one another.

May we look to the Lamb of God whose sacrifice on the Holy Cross has made all of His Children lovable. All of humanity reconciled unto God.

Almighty God, we marvel at what Grace and Wonder. We come unto You claiming the Power of the Cross of Jesus and humbly asking forgiveness for the wrong we have done homosexuals.

In Christ's Holy & Blessed Name, for the sake of Your Church on Earth and for all of humanity we pray.


08 May 2008

Memories of Italia: Acqualagna

It was a small town in Acqualagna, Italy where our NIAF (National Italian American Foundation) group visited local truffle farmers. Our forty-member group entered the small home, which appeared quite simple to my American standards, yet appeared to be appreciated by the small family of farmers. The home was sparsely decorated yet appeared to be full of love and the aroma of something cooking, no doubt some delicious Italian cuisine.

We were invited to tour the fields which were more like a forested area to “hunt” for truffles. The weather was damp with rain on the horizon as we listened to a broken English explanation of how to find truffles. I shared a laugh with a friend remembering that most of the students on the trip thought that the truffles we would be hunting were chocolates . . . I could only imagine what had gone through their heads.

When we returned to our guests home, the farmer and wife invited us to taste their homemade wine. It was strong bodied and smelled like leather and wood and as I recall the experience, I’m not sure where the farmer had poured us glasses. The conversation I had—through our translator and with what little Italian I knew—focused on living in Acqualagna. I was impressed by the contentment and gratification that these people had for their life work and their home.

I was humbled by the tranquility that they had found within the simple hills of Acqualagna, farming for truffles to make ends meet. They reminded me that success in life and a sense of self-worth is not based on accolades, material possessions, or economic value rather that we can find joy and happiness in life’s simple joys.

For those interested, the Mycological Society of San Francisco provides the following information on truffles:

The term "truffle" as commonly used refers to members of the genera Tuber and Terfezia. There are many other kinds of subterranean fungi, "false truffles," which outwardly resemble the ones we eat. They are far more common than the ones that are collected for food, and some are poisonous.

Truffles are round, warty, and irregular in shape and vary from the size of a walnut to that of a man's fist. The season for most truffles falls between September and May.

The mention of truffles conjures up images of the expensive French black truffle (Tuber melanosporum) from the Périgord region of southwest France, used in making pâté de foie gras, or the renowned odorous white truffle (Tuber magnatum) of Alba, in the Piedmont district of Italy.

Since the times of the Greeks and Romans these fungi have been used in Europe as delicacies, as aphrodisiacs, and as medicines. They are among the most expensive of the world's natural foods, often commanding as much as $250 to $450 per pound.

Book Review: Unleash the Dream

Reading Unleash the Dream inspired and challenged me to envision how Adventism can again represent an “ever-changing, on-the-edge, Holy Spirit-led movement.” It posed the question of how our denomination can move toward a twenty-first century Adventist Christianity that will incorporate new theological concepts, radical ideas of evangelism, bold community service-oriented ministries, and an enhanced sense of community—being the church and not simply attending church.

At 142 pages with twelve authors, edited by Andy Nash, the book is both inspiring and thought-provoking. A must read for Adventists seeking a relevant faith in the twenty-first century.

From the back of the book:

Wake up—everything just changed. Cell phones and the Internet are just the tip of a wave that has shifted society’s values and transformed how we relate to each other. The Adventist Church is in the thick of it.

Unleash the Dream challenges Adventism to stay relevant in a revolutionary world. A dozen young adults tackle issues that strike at the heart of Adventism. Some give practical advice for reinvigorating our church’s mission. Others call for institutional reshaping. All urge us to tune ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s rhythm so we can reach a world desperate for good news.

Unleash the Dream will open your eyes to critical issues and situations that beg for change, decisive action, and creative enthusiasm. And it will thrill you to be part of a God-ordained movement of such promise, potential, and power.

Gay Theology Without Apology

It is time to be candid on the whole matter of homosexuality and Christian community.

Many individuals think that they have the answers (as if those answers were readily accessible) to the many questions that homosexuality and Christian community ask of us today, but to be honest, no one person (or church, for that matter) unequivocally knows what the Holy Scriptures have to say on the matter—if anything.

There is no definitive answer within Scripture that leads to a conclusive assessment that God condemns homosexuality, the sexual orientation–any other assessment than that lacks intellectual integrity and clearly stems not from biblical hermeneutics grounded in God’s grace and love for humanity, but bigotry. Such a stance is bigoted precisely because there is no conclusive evidence–biblical or extra-biblical–to defend the position that homosexuality, as understood today, is a choice. Scientific research has provided the church and society with the fact of the connection between human sexuality and biology. The question that scientists and sex researchers are asking is no longer if homosexuality (or heterosexuality) is biological, what is being researched is to what degree it is biological, genetic, or influenced by interaction with the environment. It is a prejudice for churches, theologians, ministers, so-called academics, and lay persons to hold that homosexuals cannot be “truly” Christian because of their sexual orientation.

As Christians we have a tremendously rich biblical tradition of a Christ who closed the gap between those the “religious” found acceptable and the outcasts in society. Scripture illustrates a Jesus who ministered to the outcasts of society. His birth to Mary is a wonderful sign that illustrates that God is willing to use the outcasts of society, the lowly, and the ostracized to be his divine vessels.

One can observe this same principle in the life of the Apostle Paul with his struggle with the issue of women in the church–a cultural matter that greatly affected the church. The life of Martin Luther and his struggles with anti-Semitism which was a product of his place in time also demonstrates this principle. For Adventists, Ellen White with her struggles, along with the early leaders, to properly understand the guidelines and procedures of publishing and copyright laws with the high production demands of a fledgling denomination. How great, then, is it that we serve a God who doesn’t rely on the opinions of the so-called religious of society.

Understanding the ambiguity inherent with the issue of homosexuality and Christian community it can only boggle the mind when one attempts to understand why Christians seems so obsessed with homosexuality–one might rightly understand this as a projection of America’s puritan views on sexuality in general and not the exclusive views of the Christian church. This overemphasis of homosexuality is quite apparent in Christianity as a whole and even within our very own church–it can be observed more recently with the frenzy that the Federal Marriage Amendment that failed to pass both houses of Congress.

Unfortunately the lack of compassion on the part of the Adventist Church toward homosexuals can best be illustrated by the failing of the General Conference to formally recognize the Adventist GLBT outreach ministry, the Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International. Additionally, those individuals within the membership of our church, most infamously Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, who advocate the unequivocal position that homosexuality is a sin ought to be ashamed of what has been published under their name and fellow Adventists ought very rightly not respect those who articulate such a position of arrogance and project their own homophobia.

The inaction of the leadership of the General Conference to provide productive guidance and dialogue on the issue of homosexuality and Christian community is a sad truth that can only serve to embarrass. Our church’s history of exclusion with regards to our GLBT Adventists and the pain and suffering that our denomination’s ex-gay ministries has caused so many only further illustrates the need for productive guidance and thoughtful dialogue on the matter. Seeing the torment in the lives of so many GLBT Adventists and counting the deaths of those who opted to not only leave the church but end their lives because of the inaction of the church. Such a history can only serve to eternally shame those of us who ought have acted on behalf of our GLBT brothers and sisters and should have countered the besmirched image of God’s character that our church projected.

When you have known people who have been ostracized by the church because of their sexuality, when you have homosexuals who are family, when you have homosexual friends, professors, teachers, ministers, police officers, firemen, doctors, loved ones, etc. it is not so easy to pronounce the judgment of God on their eternity. In fact, it is a transparent position of arrogance to deprive God of his judgment and place ecclesiastical authority in the hands of prideful men.

It is far too often the case that fellow professed Christians are the people that make us most ashamed to be a member of the Christian church and such is also the case with our membership in the Adventist denomination; I am painfully reminded of what Christ must have felt when encountering the religious in his day - the pomposity, arrogance, abhorrence, trite quotation of Scripture to promote oppression and injustice. Understanding the God of those who advocate the sin of homosexuality, one would ponder how anyone could not agree with Christopher Hitchen’s title that, “God is Not Great.” Indeed such a God is most emphatically not great or even worthy of any worship, praise, or adoration.

Such a God as that ought be scorned, ridiculed, and placed in contempt for the unloving, void-of-grace, and hateful being that he would have to be to hold the position of the sin of homosexuality. This would be the God of those who advocate the sin of homosexuality instead of admitting the inherent ambiguity of the matter and trying to dialogue to come to a greater understanding.

I’m simply tired of the niceties. I’m through with permitting conservative Christians to be “the only Christians” who love God and follow after his will, but most of all I’m not going to allow my church to be destroyed by the ideological allegiances to bigoted, close-minded, conservatism. Many Adventists and Christians can tolerate when these fellow Christians question our Christian credentials because of our inclusion of homosexuals, but let us not be silent and placidly sit by and permit those same Christians to dare question the dignity of GLBT Christians in the eyes of God. Enough is enough, it must end here!

For too many of our brothers and sisters have come to this church for help, assistance, guidance, and love to only find excommunication, ignorance, closed doors, bigotry, platitudes such as “love the sinner, hate the sin,” and have been driven away by the very institution whose sole purpose is to exist to fill the very need that these people have – the void of love and acceptance in relation to their God-given dignity as homosexuals.

To quote a recent post on this site by ‘Gay Adventist,’ “It’s not just about Bible verses or scientific findings – it’s about people, lest we forget. And above any quote or scientific report I choose to value the lives and dignity of people – following the example of my Lord.”

Would that our church could adopt such a humble policy. Would that all of us – conservatives and liberals and moderates – concerned with the issue of homosexuality and Christian community within our church could follow the example of Jesus Christ.

Our Adventist Church must resolve the issues of gender inequality and sexuality discrimination within our church or this church shall find itself in the dustbin of history’s failed religious movements. Our church shall render itself irrelevant in the twenty-first century if it fails to acknowledge the basic human rights of people regardless of gender and sexuality. I prayerfully hope that our church can truly be the peculiar people that we so vehemently claim to be and be a church of grace-oriented inclusion, of godly love, of compassion and sensitivity, of tolerance for diversity, of the Gospel message, of a Christ risen for all of humanity.

This is truthfully our divine test. What shall history and God judge of our actions (or inaction) from the publication of “Christianity and Homosexuality . . . Some Seventh-day Adventist Perspectives” forth? May we allow God to guide us as we enter this our most sacred hour.

Reflections from the Holy Land: Peace & Palestine

Reflections from the Holy Land is a series of journal entries from my summer spent in Israel last year while excavating at Hazor.

Entry Five, Fourth Day, Jerusalem

It's almost unbearably hot out today but the heat is not what is bothering me—toady we are leaving Jerusalem for Hazor to begin excavations this summer. I thought to myself this past night, as the sun set over the ancient city of Jerusalem—the so-called city of peace—that Israel is a land with so much promise and yet equally so much sorrows. My last day in Jerusalem lead me to the markets to find something to buy as a reminder that I was here in the capital city that my Lord once knew and wept over.

After some interesting wrong turns in the ancient city and successfully—or so I thought—haggling with the merchant, I decided to purchase some Israeli-ware ceramics and tiles. It was at this time that I returned to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher to offer another prayer, but I found the cold and damp sanctuary with tourists to be repressing my thoughts, I headed for the Western Wall to envision what the Temple Mount would have looked like in Christ’s day. It was there before praying Jews and mingling tourists that I looked upon the Western Wall and Dome of the Rock and realized the awesome power of faith on people.

That night I spent the hours before morning speaking with our hotel’s Palestinian concierge about Islam, Palestine, Christianity, Israel, Arabs, America, education, Jews, the Holy Land, and so much more. Speaking with him put a human face on the Palestinian people. Kousay was thoughtful, articulate but less hopeful about peace than I had been.

He spoke of the plight of the Palestinian people and really touched my heart about the humanitarian crisis—writing this now, I’m not sure what will be the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Having befriended both Israelis and Palestinians since being in Jerusalem it is yet an emotional topic for me to consider. It’s 7:30 AM in Jerusalem and I have to go to breakfast before we leave for the Dead Sea and off to Hazor. I know these thoughts will continue to trouble my mind as my time in Israel increases.

Sh'ma Yisra'el: Israel at 60

Birthday celebrations should be jubilant, full of excitement for the future and reflection on the past. Yet Israel’s 60th-birthday comes at a time when the reality of peace seems like a distant dream drifting into the memory of her youth. When Israel should be relaxing and preparing for a real, tangible peace and promise, she is uncertain of what the future may bring.

While Israel ought to be spending this time of celebration in tranquility she finds herself marking her 60th-birthday much as she has lived everyday since 1948—persevering onward against all odds with the hope of a better tomorrow. The question lingers on the now collectively sixty-year-old mind of Israel, as it has in many times of uncertainty in our lives, as the celebration begins who will arrive for the party? Many European nations feel that Israel constitutes the greatest threat to world peace. Subsequently, United Nations conferences have met to label the nation as an “apartheid state.” Human Rights organizations issue statements ranging from sincere concern to outright condemnation of the current Israeli-Palestinian Crisis.

With all of the angst from world leaders and foreign nations Israel finds herself caught in the fray of it all. Hopeful for peace with her neighbors, Israel is also soberly aware of past conflicts and failed realizations of lasting peace. For Jews and non-Jews, living within and outside of Israel, vividly remembered is the bitter-sweet memory of the establishment of Israel after the horrific realities of the Holocaust. The previous and current generations of Israelis have not forgotten the seven wars fought as a nation, violent terrorist uprisings including two Intifadas, and failed attempts at peace.

The establishment of the nation of Israel (know in Hebrew as Eretz Yisrael) has been an endless struggle for coexistence between Israelis and neighboring Palestinians; at times with either side in the conflict less willing to make political concessions for the greater good and prosperity of future generations. These two groups of people have more in common than the present politics of division and superiority would let on and are left to wonder if peace shall ever thrive in the land of their ancestors.

Israel has proven herself able to survive the bloodshed and horrors that her victories have brought along with the tainted hope for a better tomorrow. The plight of the Palestinians and the concerns of neighboring Arab countries is a tangible reality. Palestinian Authorities have begun to democratize their people but the extremism incubated and nurtured by the past realities of land taken from ancestors and pressures from Israeli forces have complicated peace talks.

This 60th-birthday marks a time for thoughtful consideration on the part of the upcoming leaders in both the younger Israeli and Palestinian generations. Should this conflict ever come to a peaceful solution equitable for both parties involved it will have to be a solution that focuses on the future and not the past—albeit a western concept of political affairs, but the only hope for a real, tangible peace. While some nations may not arrive to celebrate Israel’s 60th-birthday, Israelis nonetheless preserve onward, much as they have in past times, with the underlying hope that the future will be more prosperous and equitable for future generations.

A Matter of Intent

This blog is intended to raise awareness through e-conversation about particular issues of relevance to the religio-culture of Adventist Christianity. There is no intent to openly offend or demean persons of different opinions. It is my humble hope that those who agree and those who disagree with these posts will be able to dialogue together to better understand our common heritage and culture as Adventists and to celebrate our Christianity. May the Spirit of the Lord guide and bless us in this endeavor and may this spiritual journey glorify our Father in Heaven.