Meddling with Catholicism: Nancy Taylor's sermon
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
A month from today, on Sunday, July 22, Quinn Caldwell and I will participate in a different kind of parade. Our sister congregation, Church of the Covenant – a UCC/Presbyterian church, located just around the corner on Newbury Street – will host a solemn celebration of the ordination to the priesthood of five Roman Catholics. Quinn and I are organizing the colorful parade of robed and stoled priests and bishops … some seasoned, others to be newly minted that day.This certainly has ecumenical consequences, but don't expect the national office of the United Church of Christ to respond unless it turns into a public relations issue.
These are no ordinary ordinations. The event is invitation-only, and will have a furtive quality about it. These are “underground” ordinations because the ordinands are women.
The movement for the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic Church describes these ordinations as “valid but illicit.” They are valid because the women have studied and prepared just as men do. Valid, because the Bishops who will enact the rite of the laying on of hands, have themselves been validly ordained, and are in the great succession that goes all the way back to St. Peter. They are “illicit” because the Vatican says they are.
A recent pronouncement from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith states this: “he who shall have attempted to confer holy orders on a woman, as well as the woman who may have attempted to receive Holy Orders, incurs … excommunication.”
It is that simple, that stark, and that swift. The very moment these women have hands laid upon them in line with great apostolic succession back to Peter; the very moment that a bishop confers upon them the holy orders for which they have so long studied and prepared, at that self-same moment, they will receive something else as well: automatic excommunication from their beloved Church.
Despite and because of the fatefulness of this undertaking, the ceremony promises to be moving.
Those attending will cry through their laughter and laugh through their tears. The liturgical parade of priests and bishops will be full of color, solemnity and sadness. What they are undertaking is brave. It is also fateful: it will forever sever them from the church they love and seek to reform.
I have not come to bring peace, but a sword, say Jesus.
I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
One’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
Toro rape victim has confrontation with UCC church in Florida
Monday, July 21, 2008
Angel Toro may have confessed to raping a boy 20 years ago, but the saga has not ended. On Sunday, the victim confronted Chapel on the Hill United Church of Christ in Seminole, FL that Toro last ministered and handed out flyers so the church could identify other potential victims (Toro's confession was related to a Methodist church in Wisconsin, not the church in Florida). As you can see from the video above, the confrontation didn't go well and the police had to be called.
This is a very sad story all the way around. The church should (if it hasn't already) take the necessary steps to make sure there are no victims at the congregation. Acting Sr. Pastor Martin Lewis' comment that "whatever happened in the past, we have no responsibility for" is accurate, but he does have an obligation to make sure that no one was harmed by Toro within the church. As far as the victim goes, he is obviously still dealing with what happened to him and should receive whatever pastoral help our church or any other church can offer. However, ambushing the church (apparently during a service) may not have been the most effective way to deal with this issue. In my opinion, it would have been much more effective to meet with church leaders to discuss his concerns for their congregation.
They all need our prayers.
Free gas for attending church
Valley City, ND (WDAY TV) - These days, we could all use a little extra gas money. So what if someone told you that you might get free gas just for going to church? For the congregational at United Church of Christ in Valley City, summer has always meant less people filling the pews. But today attendance was good. In fact, the number of people who attended services in June nearly doubled since last year. A possible reason is free gas cards.
Starting last month, peg and other church goers get a ticket for every service they attend; before they leave they drop it in to a bucket. At the end of each month, one ticket is drawn and the lucky winner gets a $50 gas card.
Some have criticized the new program, saying its bribery, but Peg says if it fills the pews and people's gas tanks, she thinks its program that should stick around.
Three women ordained as priests at UCC church
A group advocating for the ordination of women held a ceremony yesterday in a packed Protestant church at which it declared three women to be Catholic priests and a fourth woman to be a deacon.And the United Church of Christ is involved because?????
The ceremony, like several others that have taken place around the world over the past six years, was denounced by the Roman Catholic Church, and critics said the event was a stunt with no religious significance. The Catholic Church has consistently taught that only men can be ordained as priests, and the Archdiocese of Boston said that the women who participated in yesterday's ceremony had automatically excommunicated themselves by participating in what it said was an invalid ordination ceremony.
The ceremony was held at the Church of the Covenant, which is affiliated with both the Presbyterian Church and the United Church of Christ. The interim pastor of the church, the Rev. Jennifer Wegter-McNelly, declared the ordination of women "an important part of this church's identity," and said "we stand with you today."The ordination of women is "an important part of this church's identity." That's fine... but what does the ordination of catholic women have to do with the UCC?
The former president of the Massachusetts conference of the United Church of Christ, the state's largest Protestant denomination, was among several Protestant clergy who attended the ceremony to express their support for the women seeking ordination as Catholic priests.
"Prejudice in liturgical clothing is still prejudice," said the Rev. Nancy S. Taylor, the former conference president, who is now senior minister of Old South Church.
OK... the truth is no one has a clue as to why the United Church of Christ is meddling in the ordination of priests. It is one thing to open our doors and proclaim God's love for ALL of us, but it's quite a bit different when you tell other faiths what they should believe and how they should practice their faith. This doesn't seem right at all.
What is ironic is that while UCC leaders go nuts over a phony conspiracy of church stealing by outsiders, we find ourselves also meddling in other faiths. You would think this would be obvious to Nancy Taylor who is considered by many to be a potential candidate for UCC General Minister and President. I can't help but wonder if there is a creeping anti-Catholicism bubbling in the United Church of Christ.
Dorhauer has a passion
Saturday, July 19, 2008
His outspoken passion for justice made the Rev. John Dorhauer mostly “tolerated” when he worked in leadership for the United Church of Christ in St. Louis. But now that he serves as conference minister for the 43 churches of the Southwest Conference in Arizona, New Mexico and El Paso, Texas, the 47-year-old pastor believes he has come to a region and a position where he can be more authentic.Dorhauer's "passion" and "zeal" is another man's lunacy. His horribly written and horrendously edited book, “Steeplejacking: How the Christian Right is Hijacking Mainstream Religion,” is a literary disaster. Nearly half the book covers the Institute on Religion and Democracy yet it doesn't mention a single church that the IRD has "Steeplejacked".
“The work of justice has always been at the center of whatever ministry I do,” he said.
“Twenty years in Missouri was in some ways exasperated because I was tolerated in spite of the justice work that was important to me.” Because Dorhauer did “the other things well,” they put up with his zeal for justice.
The reality is that Dorhauer's phony conspiracy further divides the UCC:
- Dorhauer proudly claims ministers are calling him suspicious of visitors to their churches.
- Dorhauer boasts that one of the churches that attended his workshop mistakenly accused a woman of being part of this conspiracy.
- Dorhauer concedes that "all I have is circumstantial evidence, around which I have built a theory"
- Dorhauer's blog doesn't allow people to challenge his wild conspiracy theories and has refused to provide proof of a church stealing conspiracy within the UCC
It's somewhat amusing that he was merely "tolerated" in St. Louis. It's also sad. Why do we, as a denomination, tolerate someone like Dorhauer?
More calls for a conversation on race
Thursday, July 17, 2008
New York, July 16, 2008 - A recent New York Times/CBS News poll revealing deep national divisions along racial lines is an urgent reminder of the need for "sacred conversations on race," the head of the National Council of Churches said today.Chalk this one up to Kinnamon and Thomas living in a bubble. What they don't understand is that as long as Wright is being used as the catalyst for a "sacred conversation on race," no one is going to take it seriously.
The poll indicated that a large majority of African Americans - nearly 60 percent - believe race relations in the United States are "generally bad," the Times reported today. Forty percent of blacks said racial discrimination is as bad as ever, while one out of four whites said there is too much emphasis on discrimination. Seventy percent of blacks and half of Latinos said they have been targets of racial discrimination.
"These figures are discouraging but not surprising," said the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary of the NCC. "Last April our churches called for a 'sacred conversation on race' in American pulpits, and this poll shows how badly those conversations are needed."
The call for sermons on race was issued April 3 by the Rev. John H. Thomas, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ, and promptly endorsed by Kinnamon and other church leaders. Thomas made the call as church leaders gathered on the steps of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ and defended the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, then the target of a storm of criticism for remarks deemed unpatriotic and radical by critics.
Prominent UCC minister admits he sexually assaulted teen
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
A former Seminole minister pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges that he sexually assaulted a teenage boy in Wisconsin more than 20 years ago, but some members of his congregation still believe he is innocent.Toro resigned as pastor of Chapel on the Hill United Church of Christ in Seminole, FL last year after the charges were filed.
At a hearing in Barron, Wis., Angel Toro, 57, acknowledged the charges and said that the assault was a mistake and an isolated incident, according to the Leader-Telegram in Wisconsin. As Toro apologized, the now 38-year-old victim walked out of the courtroom.
Toro, who resigned from a Seminole church in 2007, will serve 18 months in jail, receive three years of probation and be registered nationally as a sex offender, according to the Leader-Telegram.
Toro was pastor at First United Methodist Church in Rice Lake, Wis., in 1987, when he assaulted the teenager at the church, authorities say.
Toro was recruited by the Florida Conference in 1997 to turn around Chapel on the Hill and claimed that he grew the church from 30 members to 400 (although the UCC.org directory cites only 202 members). Toro was touted throughout the UCC as a "success story" and was a featured speaker at local church and conference meetings. Toro was also an active member of the UCC's Stillspeaking Task group. Toro was reportedly featured in the original version of the UCC's 50th Anniversary DVD last year but sources within the national office claim that the DVD's were recalled just after he was charged. A new version of the DVD was quietly released that did not include Toro.
Toro has not been accussed of anything while serving Chapel on the Hill but questions about how Toro was hired remain. According to WQOW TV in Eau Claire, WI (story link no longer online), "Angel Toro was charged with indecent exposure in Florida in 1994" to which he plead no contest.
Amazingly, some people in his church continue to support Toro:
"We will support him and hope that he can come through this turmoil in good shape because he's a good man," said Jeanne Pugh, 84, who is a member of the congregation Toro used to lead. "It's just a tragedy."Yeah... a "good man" who only admitted to sexually abusing a teenager.
New fund raising campaign for UCC television ad
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
There are a couple of interesting points to be made about this new campaign. The "Steeples" ad had a run of a week a few years ago and according to the UCC, "viewer response was almost nil". The "Steeples" ad is not as edgy as the other two the UCC ran which may have contributed to the lack of response.
It is also widely believed that in the midst of the pseudo-controversy a few years ago around past television ads that had been rejected by the broadcast networks, NBC actually had approved the "Steeples" ad and claimed that it "contained a positive message asserting only that UCC churches are welcoming and inclusive". Despite the unpublicized network approval, the UCC decided not to run the ad on broadcast television at all and to trump up allegations that the networks had rejected the ads because they were "too controversial." It appears now that the UCC will not even attempt to run the "Steeples" ad on broadcast television networks at all.
Your OCWM dollars at work: More politics
The United Church of Christ's own in-house political action committee is spending your OCWM dollars campaigning against today's FISA reauthorization. From the Justice and Peace Action Network:
Today, the Senate takes up FISA reauthorization. The bill passed by the House and now under consideration in the Senate would legalize much of the wiretapping of the current administration over the past seven years, and would provide immunity from prosecution for telecommunications companies that have provided personal information on citizens to the government for the purpose of warrantless wiretapping. This is an opportunity to take a stand for checks and balances in government by supporting judicial review for governmental spying, and by supporting fair and equal treatment under the law by holding telecom companies accountable for their involvement in illegal wiretapping activities of our government.What does this have to do with the United Church of Christ you ask? While you could make up a few a reasons, no rationalization is given on the web site. At least JPAnet is not trying to fool anyone - this is all about politics and has nothing to do with faith... and your contributions to OCWM make it possible.
The Washington Post editorial last week put the issue into perspective:
Reasonable people can differ on the issue of immunity, but the FISA debate hasn't been overpopulated by reasonable people. As a result, the immunity issue has assumed a significance in the legislative process that far exceeds its underlying importance. We understand the heartfelt arguments of those who believe that closing the courthouse door to Americans who claim the warrantless wiretapping invaded their privacy rights represents "an abandonment of the rule of law," as Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., said last month.
But the fact remains that no one can claim with certainty that his or her communications were monitored. The likelihood of prevailing — or even getting very far — with such lawsuits is low. The litigation seems aimed as much at using the tools of discovery to dislodge information about what the administration actually did as it is at redressing unknown injuries. The telecommunications companies complied with a government request after being assured, in writing, that the activities had been authorized by the president and deemed lawful by the attorney general. Punishing them by forcing them to endure the cost and hassle of lawsuits would be counterproductive to securing such cooperation in the future, while offering little prospect of a useful outcome.
More fundamentally, even if we are wrong and retroactive immunity is not warranted, that is the least — not the most — important aspect of the complex FISA debate. The more important concern is to ensure that there are adequate protections in place, including vigilant court oversight, to give intelligence agencies the flexibility they need to intercept international communications without infringing on the privacy rights of Americans.
On that score, Mr. Obama nailed it the other day when he explained his new position — "that the issue of the phone companies per se is not one that overrides the security interests of the American people." Mr. Obama said he would be "happy with a system" that "makes sure that we prevent violations of the American people's privacy even if the phone companies are held harmless. The issue was, 'Can we get to the bottom of what's been taking place?' and, most importantly, 'Do we have safeguards in place going into the future so that Americans' civil liberties are not being violated?'" Those are the right questions, and Mr. Obama gave the right answer.
And one more post on torture...
Love him or hate him, Christopher Hitchens tackles the issue of torture head on in the August issue of Vanity Fair by subjecting himself to waterboarding. The video is pretty dramatic but worth watching if you, like me, took the idea of waterboarding too lightly. From the article:
You may have read by now the official lie about this treatment, which is that it “simulates” the feeling of drowning. This is not the case. You feel that you are drowning because you are drowning—or, rather, being drowned, albeit slowly and under controlled conditions and at the mercy (or otherwise) of those who are applying the pressure. The “board” is the instrument, not the method. You are not being boarded. You are being watered. This was very rapidly brought home to me when, on top of the hood, which still admitted a few flashes of random and worrying strobe light to my vision, three layers of enveloping towel were added. In this pregnant darkness, head downward, I waited for a while until I abruptly felt a slow cascade of water going up my nose. Determined to resist if only for the honor of my navy ancestors who had so often been in peril on the sea, I held my breath for a while and then had to exhale and—as you might expect—inhale in turn. The inhalation brought the damp cloths tight against my nostrils, as if a huge, wet paw had been suddenly and annihilatingly clamped over my face. Unable to determine whether I was breathing in or out, and flooded more with sheer panic than with mere water, I triggered the pre-arranged signal and felt the unbelievable relief of being pulled upright and having the soaking and stifling layers pulled off me. I find I don’t want to tell you how little time I lasted.(Gulp) John Thomas was right.
"To call for an end to torture is not to be naïve about the very real threats we face," Thomas told reporters. "It is, however, to attest to the truth that no threat is so great as to justify our surrendering the most central values of what it means to be a Christian."
UCC Ordained Minister: "Boeing as amoral as firms that aided Hitler"
Friday, July 04, 2008
Boeing pretends to be a good corporate citizen supporting Chicago arts groups and community organizations with grants. The company is listed prominently in playbills and annual reports.
But Boeing also abets torture. It is, after all, a defense contractor as well as a provider of civilian passenger jets. It is locked at the hip and the bottom line with the U.S. government.
Despite our pride in Boeing as a global corporation, it is as amoral as the German corporations that aided Hitler. Only money and contracts count with Boeing.
Boeing's subsidiary, Jeppesen Dataplan, since 2001 has provided flight and logistical support for at least 15 aircraft making 70 clandestine flights for the CIA. Jeppesen allows the CIA to transport prisoners such as ACLU plaintiffs Binyam Mohamed, Abou Elkassim Britel, and Ahmed Agiza to secret locations where they were tortured as part of our government's "war on terror."
One more note on torture
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
First of all, since United Church of Christ President John Thomas made his statement about torture, I am separating the issue into two key parts: activities our government acknowledges are illegal with activities they believe are legal. This is an important distinction because it makes no sense to protest against something that we already have laws against.
What happened at Abu Ghraib was illegal and those guilty of it were prosecuted. We clearly have laws against what happened at Abu Ghraib and if more people up the food chain are responsible for what happened, they should be prosecuted also. I don't see a debate here.
What is up for debate are the methods our government believes is legal (or at one time were legal) for interogation which include "The Attention Grab," "The Attention Slap," "The Belly Slap", "Longtime Standing", "The Cold Cell" and "Waterboarding". When people claim to be against our government's use of torture and claim "Not in our name", this is what they are talking about, not what happened at Abu Ghraib.
If you don't understand the difference between what is believed to be legal and illegal and what people are protesting against, start from the top and read again... and keep reading until you get it (this means YOU Pastor Dan!).
OK... hopefully we are all on the same track so far.
There are two points now to consider:
1) Are these legal methods of interogation moral?
2) Are the protests against them based on morality or are they based on politics?
On the first point, I think well meaning and moral people will disagree which methods of interogation are moral. Is a belly slap immoral? Is waterboarding? One method stings and hurts badly while the other is intended to make you think you are near death. I think there is a difference here and I think opinions on morality are going to vary based on the methods. Effectiveness is a whole other issue but I don't think morality can be weighed by effectiveness so it's immaterial to me. I believe there may be effective interogation methods but that doesn't mean they are moral.
The second point goes to the motivation for protest which I think is a fair question. Pastor Dan calls attention to the ongoing testimony on torture... which has been virtually non-stop since the Abu Ghraib scandal. There is nothing new in any of this.
So again I ask, why now in the midst of an election season is John Thomas issuing statements about torture? While I don't doubt that he really believes what he is saying, I think it's more about political drama just as he has done in the past.
Finally, I need to correct Pastor Dan whose problems with reading comprehension have caused him again to misrepresent my words. On his blog yesterday, he claims...
Calling torture "a morally wrong but necessary thing to do" is hardly rejecting it. Nor is labeling the conversation about as essentially bygones taking a very firm stance. The fact is that senior members of the administration knew and approved of the mistreatment of detainees. What happened at Abu Ghraib and Bagram Air Base and Guantanamo and God alone knows how many secret prisons around the world was not the work of a few bad apples. It was a systemic effort, and the people responsible for putting it into motion still have not been called to account for their actions.Here is what I actually said:
The moral argument against torture is also disingenuous at this point because we are in a war where we are aiming guns at people and blowing their heads clean off their shoulders. If we as a country accept that this is a morally wrong but necessary thing to do, than I'm quite a bit less sensitive to concerns about a belly slap and I haven't honestly explored it's moral implications.My statement was in context to the previous sentence was about our country generally accepting war being "a morally wrong but necessary thing to do" - not torture!
Please contribute to UCBMA
You've seen the news reports.
The average price of gasoline in the U.S. is over $4 a gallon. These record-breaking prices have had a dramatic impact on the cost of every commodity used by the nation's families.
Low-income annuitants have been hit especially hard. The ripple effect of soaring energy costs affects what consumers pay for food, utilities and other necessities as well. During the month of July the United Church Board for Ministerial Assistance (UCBMA) – one of the corporations comprising the Pension Boards – will provide $200 one-time Energy Assistance Grants to 1,000 low-income retirees
The Pension Boards of the United Church of Christ has seen a 300% increase in requests for Emergency Assistance not only from the retirees, but also from those active in ministry. We have budgeted $75,000 from the proceeds of the Christmas Fund Offering for Emergency Grants. This budget was based on our past experience, and should have been adequate, absent this current economic situation.
I am requesting that you consider making an extra special contribution to the Christmas Fund during this month. Your contribution of $250, or $100, or $50 or any amount will help to insure we do not have to refuse requests for help from those who serve, and have served, your church so faithfully.
You can CLICK HERE for the Christmas Fund's online giving portal. Or, if you have questions you may feel free to contact the Rev Dr M. Douglas Borko, the Director of Ministerial Assistance. Please accept our gratitude on behalf of the active and retired clergy and lay employees of the United Church of Christ who are supported through the Christmas Fund. Your past, current and future support of this ministry of beloved church is much appreciated and really does make a difference through a direct impact in the lives these servants.
Michael A. Downs
President and CEO
The Pension Boards, United Church of Christ