Tuesday, May 31, 2016

We Shall Still Be Joined in Heart


Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Genesis 12:1-3

When Dr. Harrell Beck, my Old Testament professor, said, “Covenant,” he always clearly enunciated all three syllables. “Cov-e-nant.”

Holding the lectern with both hands, he would rise up on tiptoe to emphasize the importance of the word.

I don’t know whether I would love that passage in Genesis as well if it were not for Dr. Beck.

The LORD calls to Abram.

“Go.”

“Leave” everything that is familiar and comfortable and safe, and go.

But where?

“To the land that I will show you.”

With Harrell Beck, a lecture was also a sermon.

God always calls us into the future. It is always unknown. It is always both terrifying and full of possibility.

Just before our United Methodist General Conference met in Portland, Oregon, Bishop Scott J. Jones, who presides over the Great Plains Annual Conference, published an essay in the online journal, Ministry Matters, about the importance of keeping our clergy covenant.

He begins by saying that during the last few months he has had “multiple invitations to break my vows.” And then he explains that, “Many people have suggested that, in the name of protesting against perceived injustice, I should disobey the discipline of The United Methodist Church and violate the sacred promises I have made at two key points in my life — ordination as an elder and consecration as a bishop.”

“I decline those invitations,” says the bishop, “I will keep my promises. I will be faithful to God’s calling on my life as a leader in our church.”

He is talking about his refusal to officiate at a same sex wedding, or to condone clergy who do. And he speaks of the treatment of LGBTQ persons in the church as a “perceived injustice.” 

This is not surprising. Two years ago Bishop Scott told the clergy of the Great Plains Conference that he had been asked what he would do if 100 clergy were to conduct same gender weddings, he said that he would first suspend all 100 clergy and then there would be 100 clergy trials. And he said that he would do this even though he knew that each trial would cost $100,000.

If a bishop is willing to spend ten million dollars ($10,000,000!) on trials you can assume that he or she is pretty serious about maintaining discipline.

I do not doubt that the bishop sincerely believes what he is saying. And I commend him for the way he speaks about those on the other side of this issue. “I deeply respect and love many people who disagree about key issues in the life of our church” he writes. “They are friends and colleagues.”

Apart from my disagreement with him in terms of this issue. I also disagree with him about the nature of the covenant we share. 

His final paragraph illustrates our differences:

“When people justify their actions as ‘civil disobedience,’ they are misusing language. It is not disobedience against the government. It is ecclesial disobedience. They are violating the rules of a church they have freely joined when other, similar churches offer acceptable ways of pursuing their calling. If I ever get to the point where I cannot in good conscience obey the key aspects of our discipline — and I pray such a day never happens — it will be time to surrender my credentials as a United Methodist bishop and elder and find some other way to follow Christ.”

We agree that it’s not civil disobedience. I’m not sure who is using that language. And yes, it is ecclesial disobedience. 

The next sentence is where we part ways: “They are violating the rules of a church they have freely joined when other, similar churches offer acceptable ways of pursuing their calling.”

Yes, it is “a church they have freely joined.”

And that is precisely the point. In my ordination (and earlier, in my confirmation) I freely joined a church.

I joined a church. I did not join the Book of Discipline.

I freely professed my general agreement with and affirmation of our United Methodist doctrine and polity. And I agreed to uphold the discipline (not the same as the Book of Discipline) of the church. But as the children’s hymn says, “the church is a people.” That’s what I joined.

I joined Harrell Beck, and Paul Deats, and Walter Muelder. G. Bromley Oxnam and Henry Hitt Crane. Harold Bosley, E. Stanley Jones, Georgia Harkness, and Ralph Sockman. And in our corner of the world, I joined Dale White and Gil Caldwell, and Bill Ziegler, Evelyn Burns, Jane Cary Peck,  and Bobby McClain, and so many others. When I was ordained the pastors were almost all men, but I joined a church made up of wonderful human beings. The great Methodist preacher Halford Luccock called that church an “Endless Line of Splendor.”


Our covenant, like Abraham’s covenant, is with God. But it is lived out with real people here and now. And across time with that great “cloud of witnesses.”

A church is more than the people who have joined it. We need order and we need discipline, and we need a common theology. We need a common covenant.

But in our current situation, the covenant has been reduced to the Book of Discipline, and the Discipline has been reduced to a rule book.

And the rule book has been reduced to the rules that exclude LGBTQ folks.

That’s not my idea of a covenant. Or a church.

Friday, May 27, 2016

You Can't Pick and Choose Which Scriptures You Will Follow


If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them. 
Leviticus 20:13

In the ongoing debate about homosexuality one of the common arguments made by traditionalists is that “You can’t pick and choose which scriptures you will follow and which you will ignore.” The Bible, they argue, clearly condemns same sex relationships and we cannot ignore the biblical judgment.

The argument sounds good, even if you know that in order to read the Bible faithfully we have to make judgments. Very few of the most hardened biblical literalists, while arguing vociferously for the condemnation of same sex relationships believe that the penalty for such relationships should be death. As Adam Hamilton pointed out, we already agree that the second part of the verse is not to be taken literally, what makes the traditionalists think that the first part is still sacred?

But the flaw in that argument runs much deeper than that internal inconsistency.

I believe the first person to point out this deeper and more fundamental problem was the late (great) Walter Muelder.

Dr. Muelder was Dean of the Boston University School of Theology from 1945 to 1972. He was an influential theologian and ecumenist, and a major force in the development of Christian Social Ethics as a discipline. 

He was a brilliant thinker and a dedicated scholar.

Beyond that, he was in so many ways the quintessential Methodist, the embodiment of all the virtues of personal and social holiness.

When Martin Luther King, Jr. came to Boston University to pursue a Ph.D., Muelder was Dean of the School of Theology and a Professor of Christian Social Ethics. He was one of Dr. King’s teachers, and Muelder’s ethics made a deep impact on King.

Dr. Muelder was passionate about peace and justice, and civil rights until the end of his life.

He died at the age of 97, on June 12, 2004, from a sudden heart attack. He had not been ill. Like Moses, his mind was “unimpaired.” and “his vigor had not abated.”

On June 9, 2004, just three days before he died, after an earlier General Conference failed to advance the cause of LGBTQ inclusion, Dean Muelder addressed the retired pastors of our United Methodist Conference with this challenge:

“We retired ministers have an ongoing role to play in the conflicts, such as those on homosexuality, which threatened to split the church at the last General Conference. We are in constant dialogue with clergy and laity who are rightfully troubled by these issues. We can help hold the church together by reminding people to think comprehensively and holistically about these questions. The positions taken by militant opponents are often narrowly based by appeals to the authority of single verses of Scripture as decisively conclusive.

“We need to remind the whole church that Methodism has a fourfold basis for making authoritative positions, namely: scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. It is the coherence of these explorations that is authoritative. No literal appeal to isolated scripture passages is sufficient. We have to understand the historical nature of Scripture as a whole and relate any passage to the Bible as a whole, to the evolving tradition both within the Biblical period, to historical Methodism, to the best scientific reasoning, and to a comprehensive awareness of evolving experience. This fourfold coherence is essential for maintaining authoritative doctrine and practice.

“As retired ministers we are constantly in contact with members of the contemporary church and hence we are part of its ongoing dialogue to maintain the unity of the church.”

There is enormous wisdom and insight in those brief remarks.

His first point may be the most important. Those who militantly oppose the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the life of the United Methodist Church are basing their arguments on a narrow reading of isolated texts. Those few texts can NEVER be decisive.

His second point is a reminder of our United Methodist heritage. We have “a fourfold basis” for making authoritative decisions, “namely: scripture, tradition, reason, and experience.” 

In 1972 when the Book of Discipline first declared the “practice of homosexuality” to be “incompatible with Christian teaching,” Dean Muelder was basically in agreement. Over the years, his judgment shifted. Those condemnatory biblical texts did not disappear, but there was new scholarship. Evaluating that new scholarship in the context of the whole Bible caused him to rethink his assumptions. Reason, experience, a changing tradition, and new biblical scholarship came together in a convincing way. 

A third point is the very essence of Walter Muelder’s genius, and anyone who took even a single class with him will be able to hear this as if he were speaking it out loud as you read it: “It is the coherence of these explorations that is authoritative.” The Dean never jumped to conclusions and consequently he did not often change his mind. But the thoroughness of a decision never closed his mind to the possibility of change.

The idea is not to explore scripture, tradition, reason, and experience as if they were unrelated areas of inquiry and then string them together as if that constituted an authoritative result. We must search for a coherent understanding. And it is that coherence which is authoritative.

We can’t pick and choose our scriptures. “We have to understand the historical nature of Scripture as a whole and relate any passage to the Bible as a whole, to the evolving tradition both within the Biblical period, to historical Methodism, to the best scientific reasoning, and to a comprehensive awareness of evolving experience. This fourfold coherence is essential for maintaining authoritative doctrine and practice.”

Within the biblical word, we have to use the whole Bible. Isolated texts can never be decisive. In the tradition of John Wesley, we have a fourfold basis for arriving at ethical and theological insights: scripture, reason, tradition and experience. And then that wonderful sentence, “It is the coherence of these explorations that is authoritative.” 

Dean Muelder was convinced that a faithful study of scripture in the context of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, would lead us to the full acceptance of Gay and Lesbian persons in the United Methodist Church. 

After three more failed General Conferences, one wonders whether we can get there as a united church.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

It Could Have Been Worse (A Reflection on Our United Methodist General Conference)

Rev. Will Green protesting the exclusion of LGBTQI persons
from full inclusion in the United Methodist Church

Once Jesus was asked when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.”
Luke 17:20-21

When Christians argue about belief, we generally argue about things that don’t make much difference. It makes no difference whether Jesus really “walked on the water,” for example. And it makes no difference whether or not Mary was a virgin. 

On the other hand, we pay little attention to whether or not we believe in things that really matter. It makes a great deal of difference, for instance, whether we believe in loving our enemies, or forgiving the person who wrongs us, or loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.

This passage from Luke’s Gospel contains one of those ideas that matter. It is in many ways a watershed question: Do you believe that, in fact, the Kingdom of God is among us?

If you believe that the Kingdom of God is among us, then you will see the world differently.

I have been thinking about this a lot as the events have unfolded at our United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Oregon, this past week.  An Associated Press story in the New York Times gives an excellent summary of what has happened and where we are.

In this latest episode of our forty-four year soap opera we continue to wrestle with whether or not our LGBTQ sisters and brothers will be fully included in the life of the church. There is good news and bad news. The good news, not to be confused with the Good News movement, is that we did not institute severe mandatory penalties against clergy who celebrate same sex marriages. The bad news is that the delegates actually voted in favor of the mandatory penalties and we were only saved by a Judicial Council ruling that mandatory penalties violated our church constitution. 

There was serious discussion of schism, dividing the church into at least two groups, one progressive and the other traditional, with options for more. As the rumors and reports became more persistent, Bishop Bruce Ough, the president of the Council of Bishops, addressed the body to deny the rumors and acknowledge that the bishops were themselves deeply and painfully divided about how we should move forward. 

"I have a broken heart in that collectively we have a broken heart," Bishop Ough told the delegates. "Our heart breaks over the pain, distrust, anger, anxiety and disunity" among the delegates at the conference.

As the committee votes against the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons piled up, advocates for inclusion staged protests, at one point standing around the outside of the conference session with rainbow colored duct tape over their mouths, and at another point lying on the floor with their hands and feet bound.

It was heart breaking. "People are walking down the street in tears saying, 'This is not the United Methodist Church that I joined,' " said Dorothee Benz, an LGBT rights advocate and a lay delegate from the New York Annual Conference.

After a roller coaster ride of voting and maneuvering the delegates finally voted 428-405 to accept a plan advanced by the Council of Bishops to delay all consideration of LGBTQ proposals, and instead to create a commission that will devote the next two years to reviewing our present policies and attempt to develop a plan to address our differences.

This does not seem like a very good outcome unless you realize that it could have been worse. It could have been a lot worse. If we had pressed for a vote on those issues it is almost certain that we would have lost every single one.

The reason that the United Methodist Church is out of step with other mainline denominations in the United States, like the Episcopalians, the Lutherans, the Presbyterians, and the Congregationalist (though each of those denominations has dissenting traditionalists), is that we are a world church. If the vote at General Conference were only among United Methodists from the U.S., we would have moved forward long ago.

As our church has evolved, the more liberal Methodist churches in South America, South Africa, and Great Britain formed their our indigenous churches and separated from what is now the United Methodist Church. Within our church, the traditionalist minority in the United States has almost unanimous support from the very conservative United Methodist conferences in Africa and together they form an immovable bloc. 

So after all of the tumult, we are left with a commission to study something that is already obvious to most of the people outside of the church. And, honestly, that is embarrassing.

But it should not surprise us.

When Jesus said, “the Kingdom of God is among you,” he was not speaking about the church. He was speaking about humanity. 

We pray that the Kingdom will come on earth because we know that it is not fully realized. And we know that we cannot point with certainty to an event or movement and exclaim, “Look, there it is.” 

But while the commission is conducting its study, more congregations will become reconciling churches, more clergy will conduct same sex weddings, more bishops will refuse to conduct clergy trials, and more openly gay clergy will be ordained.


The Kingdom of God is among us. And time is on our side.



Friday, May 13, 2016

A Good Week for Those on the Margins

Attorney General Loretta Lynch
“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets”
Matthew 7:12

The “others” about him Jesus was most concerned, were always those on the margins. It is hard to think about a more marginalized group in American society than the transgender community.

This was a good week for those on the margins.

On Monday the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the state of North Carolina, asserting that the state’s recent enactment of HB2, a law compelling transgender persons to us the bathroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificates, and generally prohibiting cities from enacting laws protecting LGBTQ people, violated their civil rights. 

Echoing themes from the Hebrew prophets and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Attorney General Loretta Lynch described the law as “state sponsored discrimination.” Though she did not explicitly compare it to Jim Crow laws, she made the connection clear. 

“You have been told,” Lynch declared, “that this law protects vulnerable populations from harm. That is just not the case.” And she explained: “What this law does is inflict further indignity for a population that has already suffered far more than its fair share. This law provides no benefit to society, and all it does is harm innocent Americans.”

Speaking to the transgender community across the country, she promised, "We stand with you. And we will do everything we can to protect you going forward. Please know that history is on your side." 

Today, the Department of Education made good on that promise by issuing a letter to every school district in the country informing them that discrimination against transgender students is a violation of federal civil rights laws.

Education Secretary John B. King issued a statement saying that “No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus.’

Sounding more like a pastor than a school administrator, King spoke of what he wanted the educational community to look like: “We must ensure that our young people know that whoever they are and wherever they come from, they have the opportunity to get a great education in an environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence.”

In an article in The Atlantic, Matt Ford describes the letter as providing “the most detailed federal guidance yet for educators on transgender students and their rights, the departments interpret anti-discrimination laws to apply when a parent or guardian tells school administrators about their child’s gender identity.”

The letter specifically tells school districts that they cannot discriminate against students who choose a bathroom or locker room based on their gender identity rather than the gender on their birth certificate. There are also guidelines on athletics, graduation ceremonies, yearbooks, and other programs.

Ford observes that the letter does not carry legal force, but it puts administrators and teachers that “discrimination against transgender students could bring sanctions, including the painful loss of federal funding.”

For those who care about justice and treating others as we would like to be treated, it was a good week.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Eternal Now: Science and Theology


Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. 
I Corinthians 15:51

Science and theology are not natural enemies.

They work with the same subject matter. Both begin with the observation of the world around us. 

And each is focused on big ideas.

One focuses on how the world works and the other focuses on what it means. But those distinctions are not as clearly delineated as one might suppose. There is natural overlap and there is also intentional overlap. And some conflict is probably inevitable.

But lately the conflict has been fairly acrimonious. We tend to forget that although there have been many famous conflicts across the centuries, science and theology have also been understood at many points as complementary disciplines. And they ought to be complementary disciplines.

The blame for our current state is broadly shared. The present conflict began a little over a century ago when the Fundamentalists began to push back against the theory of evolution and assert that the creation story in Genesis was a scientific document. It was both bad science and bad theology, but it provided the foundation for biblical literalism and a simplistic view of the world which has been surprisingly popular. It is so popular that more people believe in creationism today than fifty years ago.

The pushback against Fundamentalism and biblical literalism has found its voice in what we call the “New Atheism” of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and others. It is hard to blame anyone for pushing back against the anti-scientific (and anti-intellectual) views of the biblical literalists, but the New Atheists have been as ignorant about theology as the biblical literalists have been about science.

Given this background, I was pleased to receive an article from one of my atheist friends, written by physicists Bob Berman and Robert Lanza and titled, “There Is No Death, Only a Series of Eternal ‘Nows’.”

Berman and Lanza want to tell us what will happen when we die. 

And the good news is that we don’t. We don’t really die. 

They begin with what they call the “scientific view of death,” which they summarize as “essentially, you drop dead and that’s the end of everything. This is the view favored by intellectuals who pride themselves on being stoic and realistic enough to avoid cowardly refuge in Karl Marx’s spiritual ‘opium’ – the belief in an afterlife.”

“This modern view,” they observe dryly, “is not a cheerful one.”

But they have an alternative: “our theory of the universe, called biocentrism, in which life and consciousness create the reality around them, has no space for death at all.”

Death has no reality because time is an illusion. What is real is now. And, as the title of the article suggests, we live in a series of eternal nows.

Their argument goes deep into the realm of theoretical physics, but is written in a style that is accessible to the non-scientist.

I was fascinated first by the title. Paul Tillich wrote a famous sermon called, “The Eternal Now,” which is included in a book by the same title. And the idea is central to Tillich’s theology.

As I read the article, I was reminded of the Process Theology of Charles Hartshorne and John Cobb. 

In Hartshorne’s book, “The Logic of Perfection,” he wrote about his understanding of death in a way that complements the view of Berman and Lanza. “It is a truism,” writes Hartshone, “though one often forgotten, that whatever death may mean it cannot mean that a person is first something real and then something unreal.”

Berman and Lanza conclude by recounting what Albert Einstein wrote when his lifelong friend Michele Besso died in 1955: “Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”

It is unlikely that the conflict between science and theology will be resolved any time soon (although I could argue that for me it is already resolved in this eternal now). But I cannot help hoping. 

And I have this image, always a favorite, from that iconic scene at the end “Casablanca.” The cynical American, Rick Blaine, links arms with the corrupt French police sergeant Renault. And as they walk off into the fog to begin their unlikely partnership fighting against the Nazis, Rick says,  "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."   

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Jean Marilyn Trench and Julia Ward Howe: Peacemaking on Mother's Day


they shall beat their swords into plowshares, 
and their spears into pruning hooks; 
nation shall not lift up sword against nation, 
neither shall they learn war any more.
Isaiah 2:4

When I was a little boy we had a tradition of going to the cemetery to put flowers on the graves of relatives. One time we stopped for gas on the way home, and my dad went inside to talk with the guys who ran the station, while my sister and I waited in the car with my mother. I asked her about the flags we had seen at many of the graves and she told me that the flags marked the graves of veterans. I asked if they had all died in the Second World War, and she said, no, it just meant that they had served in the military.

Then we talked about those who had died in the war and she told me that when a family lost a son they would put a flag in the window (I know there is a tradition of stars, but I think she talked about flags). Mom had been in high school during the war, and she was visibly moved by the memory.

“That must have been very sad for their mothers,” I said, seeing her emotion. “Yes,” she said, with tears in her eyes, “some families had more than one flag.”

“I wish I had been alive then,” I said. “I wish I had been in the war. I would have killed all those Japanese and Germans who made those mothers so sad!”

I was trying to cheer her up, and I could tell she knew that I meant well. She was quiet for a moment and then she said softly, “You know, Billy, Japanese and German soldiers had mothers, too.”

And I said, “Don’t say that. I don’t want to think about that!”

If we really think about it, it is almost unbearable. But as Christians, it is precisely what we ought to think about.

Mom’s thoughts came back to me as I read, again, the inspiring and emotional words of Julia Ward Howe, written in 1870.

Julia Ward Howe is best known as the author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” She was an abolitionist and a suffragist, and she was also one of the founders of what we now call “Mother’s Day.” In response to the carnage she had seen in the Civil War, she called for a Mother’s Day of Peace, in which the women of the world would declare a common interest in nurturing and protecting life. Her Mother’s Day Proclamation of 1870, presents that bold vision:

Arise then ... women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
"We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, 
reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able 
to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

As men have often forsaken the plow 
and the anvil at the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
for a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, 
to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other
as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each learning after his own time, the sacred impress,
Not of Caesar, but of God.


*This post includes material originally published on this blog in 2010.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The People We Are Called to Be



In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel with him; they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.
II Samuel 11:1

As Bible verses go, the first verse of the eleventh chapter of Second Samuel, is hardly inspiring. But it is instructive.

To paraphrase a popular TV commercial, “If you’re a king, you go out to battle in the spring. That’s just what you do.” (But that verse also tells us that in this instance the king stayed home and let his soldiers do the fighting for him. Wars have always been designed and declared by those in power, and fought by those who are powerless.)

Spring is also the time, every four years, when United Methodists go out to battle. At General Conference, every four years, representatives come from all over the world to re-write our Book of Discipline and chart the course for the church. This year, on May 10-20, that gathering will be in Portland, Oregon.

This year there will be resolutions on terrorism and refugees and climate change, but most of the energy will be devoted to more internal matters. 

There are proposals aimed at making us into a doctrinal church, stipulating that everyone, particularly pastors and seminary professors, need to believe the same thing—and attaching those beliefs to ancient creeds. Fortunately, I don’t think those ideas will get very far.

There are proposals relating to our exclusionary policies regarding our LGBTQ sisters and brothers. Some are aimed at tightening the regulations and increasing the penalties for pastors who officiate at same sex weddings and bishops who tolerate them. Other proposals are aimed at removing the exclusionary language and becoming a more welcoming church. 

Sadly, we now stand alone among mainline Protestant denominations in our exclusionary stance. We have been wrong long enough. This time we need to get it right. (For a look at the history of this conflict, click here.)

Some of those going to Portland are actively considering the possibility that the church may split, into two denominations; one in favor of inclusion and the other against it.

My hope is that we can agree to disagree; that we can remove the offensive exclusionary language from the Discipline, but recognize that we do not all think alike on the issue. One of the great strengths of United Methodism over the years has been our diversity. Since the days of John Wesley, we have agree to “think and let think.” 

When our United Methodist Church in East Greenwich voted to become a Reconciling Church, we adopted a statement affirming the full inclusion of all persons in the life of the church, and we concluded with the affirmation of a core Wesleyan principle: 

“While we recognize that there are differences among us, we believe that we can love alike even though we may not think alike. It is in this spirit that we invite all people to join us in our faith journey.”

Historically, we have not always been that people. But at our best, that statement is a description of who we are and who we are called to be.