UM General Conference 2019

I wanted to share just a few thoughts on the upcoming General Conference in St. Louis. First, let me say that I am praying that the delegates truly listen to one another and the Holy Spirit as they search what God's will might be for the church and its mission to the world. I hope the following reflections are offered in the spirit that is both conciliar and conciliatory. I offer these thoughts as ten theses.

1) The Church is the Body of Christ and hence much greater than The United Methodist Church. I hope the delegates will keep this in mind. As much affection as many have for The United Methodist Church, it is but a very small slice of global Christianity. The Church existed long before John Wesley came around, and certainly much longer than the late 1960's when the current denomination formed.

2) Human pride in a denomination is not wrong; no more wrong than human pride in a favorite athletic team, or beloved rock band is misplaced. However, when this affinity becomes elev…

Lady Wisdom and the Fiery Tongue

Proverbs 1:20-35
James 3:1-12
I admit it. I am a bit of a social media addict. My wife knows it. My students know it. My colleagues and friends all know it. I am constantly checking Facebook and Instagram on my smartphone to learn the latest juicy gossip, the latest news, and yes, sometimes, the latest juicy scandal and fight. In these Lectionary texts (Proper B19), I see myself and so many of us implicated today. These texts seem to speaking to us today. Of course we know we should hold our tongue. How many of us have seen the kinds of destruction that has resulted from a comment someone made on Social Media? As the author of James says, the tongue spews forth sparks that set an entire forest ablaze. The trick with social media, I think, is that many of us type in that comment before we realize what we are doing. Over a lifetime we may have learned to better control our tongues. But writing privately on our phones, with the assumption of anonymity, we often say things we would never …

On Not Being Nice in Times of Violence

After this past week, I'm sure many of you, like me, are reeling, first from the news of pipe bombs that were sent to some of our nation's most prominent political leaders, secondly by the cowardly, despicable and apparently racially motivated shooting of two elderly citizens at a Kroger grocery store in my home town, Louisville, KY, and finally by the horrific mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. My heart has been sighing in my prayers and meditations for the victims of these attacks and attempted attacks.
I also have been reflecting on these trends and thought I'd share briefly from my experience. When I lived in Berlin (1992-1997), I lived for two years in the far eastern suburb of Berlin Marzahn, and then three years in the East Berlin squatting and arts district, Prenzlauer Berg. Throughout my time in Berlin, there were tensions between right wing nationalists and outsiders, leftists, Jews, and ethnic minorities. As an ecumenical volunteer who w…

Virtuous Friendship Book

Hi Everybody,

It is always such a great joy to share in my students' graduations, as I did with these great MAPT folks last August. Did you know that teaching can be considered a very special type of friendship? Theology professors are especially blessed. We get to see our students grow and mature spiritually, develop friendships with one another and with us, and increase their intellectual ability and pastoral skills.

I am especially lucky because my scholarship is on the topic of friendship. I am so excited to share that I have completed and submitted drafts for my forthcoming book with Cascade Press (Wipf and Stock). The title of the book is Virtuous Friendship: The New Testament, Greco-Roman Friendship Language, and Contemporary Community. I am expecting the book to come out at some point this winter.

Here is a brief description from the back cover of the book.

Why do so many feel so lonely today? Are our friendships in breakdown mode, or are they just changing? Why are we burd…

On Mouths, S**tholes, and What Comes Out of Them

Matthew 15:10-28
Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.” But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.” Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not de…

Jose and Maria in Lenoir

In those days an executive order went out from President Trump that all undocumented people should be deported. This was the first round of deportations and was done while Roy Cooper was governor of North Carolina. Everyone fled their homes for fear of being picked up by ICE. Jose went from the city of Charlotte up to Watauga county, to Boone, because he had a cousin who was a big player in Samaritan's Purse there. He went for help from his cousin, because Maria, to whom he was engaged, was expecting a child. Before they got there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in rags, and laid him in the straw in the bed of their old pickup, because they were afraid to give their credit card number at the Red Carpet Inn; and were worried the Emergency Room would call ICE.

In a Walmart parking lot there were undocumented temporary workers rounding up the shopping carts by night. Then an angel of the Lord shone around them, and…