All posts by Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He was called to Atlanta in 1994 to pastor All Saints MCC. Five years later he founded Gentle Spirit Christian Church. He lives in Decatur with his husband Bill, who he met in 1982 while living and working in Ohio and legally married in 2015.

“REVEREND BITCH, SIR” IS BORN

As most of you have noticed today is the 4th of July and my good pastor friend told me bloggers usually do not write on holidays. To quote him, “you don’t have to post on Wednesday as it’s a holiday and most bloggers don’t post on holidays.” I am not sure why folks don’t post on holidays…maybe because they are busy doing other things? Yet, I got to tell you this particular holiday I am not all that excited about.

We spend this day patting ourselves on the back for what great freedoms we have and how wonderful a country we are…how strong we are. Hummm, we might be a better place then some, but we ought not be too arrogant about how “good” we are.

Is this not the country where the Indians had no idea they were savages till the Christians arrived and told them they were, and damn, the Indians actually believed them, by defending their land and way of life. Is this not the country where we completely ignored Jesus one and only command; “Love one another as I have loved you” and proceeded to en-slave a whole culture of people and attempt to completely wipe out numerous others. Do we not consider women something less then full partners in the creation? Is this not the country where we have our own brand of terrorism that blows up medical clinics and kills and hurts horribly innocent by-standers to prove terminating a pregnancy is immoral? Is this not the country where we “kill a killer to teach that killing is wrong”? Is this not the country where we peek into people’s bedrooms and then arrest them and send them to jail for not having sex in the proscribed moral manner? Jesus once commented; “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat…’I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'” Yet in this “Christian” country these words are ignored in every major city with thousands upon thousands going without food and shelter and then we label them criminals! Right here in the city of Atlanta on any given night we have 11,000 homeless and only 5,000 beds to help. Now the city is taking aim at the largest shelter to close them down because it allegedly causes all the crime in a prime money making district of downtown. Oh, but isn’t this being a little bitchy for a holiday designed to celebrate our freedom and greatness Reverend?

You are damn right it is and I want to bring these things to the forefront of our minds so they are not just ignored when we call ourselves “a Christian Nation”, Which is what got me in trouble to begin with.

When I came to Atlanta in 1994 from the northern part of the country to take over the pulpit of a progressive church, I came with the excitement of living out a dream and vision where all folks were considered apart of the family of God. Oh my, I was wrong!

Yes, I was new in pastoral ministry and had a lot to learn, and yes I was arrogant to a fault about being an all-inclusive ministry and that these folks knew what inclusive meant. However, I was not prepared for what I experianced. The north had just slammed into the wall of the south.

The first district church conference I was at, included among our folks a transgender person who was just coming out. This person being new to the process of transitioning from one gender to another didn’t know how to “dress properly” when in public. In fact if you can picture a man in a bikini, not shaved, hanging out in the wrong places, and make-up that would remind you Tammy Faye Baker, you have a good picture of this child of God. Oh the howling and whining by our delegation. Sreaming almost in unison, “You got to do something Reverend, this person is embarrassing the church, making us look like fools! Tell the “he/she” to be a man or go home!” I was shocked by the willingness of our folks who claimed to be all-inclusive to throw out someone who didn’t conform to their idea of gender identity.

When we got back from conference and I began to hear the stories of how we had to keep this one or that one happy because they gave a lot of money to the church. We had to careful how we let some participate in worship service because they would embarrass us. Also, I was told working at changing our language to a more inclusive style was just being “politically correct” and not needed. Further making sure we were handicap accessible was too expensive and a huge bother. Oh and “before we give money out to folks from the benevolence fund, the person ‘in need’ would have to prove beyond any doubt they were worthy of receiving.”

So by the time we got to the first “Pastoral Staff” meeting I was over it…this was not what doing the “gospel” was about. The pastoral staff consisted of the “Deacons” of the church and if you read the book of Acts in the New Testament you will have idea of what their duties were. The Senior Deacon was one of those folks with lots of money and who nobody wanted to offend. I must say to his credit he had a heart of gold and a desire to do God’s work. He would do anything asked of him and was indeed a good and faithful servant of the church and of God. Yet, he also was not an activist, nor did he want to be confrontational. Change had to come slow and easy. Well, I was in no mood to hear this much less do that. So rather then trying to teach and affirm the gospel truth, I began to announce changes that were immediate.

As you might imagine the staff did not react well and at one point, the Senior Deacon (the pillar of the church) looked at me and said, “Why are you insisting on so many changes, so fast without going through proper channels?” To which I replied, “Because I am the pastor of the church and it’s my job”! The response from the pillar of the church was just above a whisper but loud enough for the entire staff to hear, “Bitch!”

Well at this point you could have heard a pin falling to the ground it got so quiet. The “pillar of the church” and the new pastor were about to have a cat fight. Now I will tell you the Holy Spirit still speaks today, as my immediate response was to look the Senior Deacon in the eyes and firmly state, “That’s Reverend Bitch to you!” With that the room cracked up, the tension was broke and a new name was borne.

In was in this moment I recognized change takes time, that living the gospel is scary and hard. That we are taught to take the path of least resistance. So my job was going be about teaching, persuading and affirmming that all could “walk the talk” of the gospel regardless of the path. I will forever be thankful for this Senior Deacon.

In the LGBTQ community the term “bitch” when applied to a male has come to mean “pushy”, “emotionally unrelenting”, “in your face”. I am all of that but have learned that when one carries the title of Reverend, “a person ordained for service in a Christian church”, the key word is service. So my life today while many times is “pushy”, “emotionally unrelenting” and “in your face” is driven to be about “service” to God, “to do justice, act mercifully and to walk humbly with God”.

Over the year’s people in the LGBTQ community found out that I like leather and have an appreciation for the “leather clubs” (that is another blog-ah no-there are something’s I won’t write about).

However, term of respect in this community is the term “Sir”. A friend of mine in the leather community after watching me one CNN “TalkBack Live” call Rev. Jerry Falwell a liar because of what he was saying about the LGBTQ community, called me after the show and said: “You Pastor, you are crazy, these people will hurt you. I grew up in that guy’s church and have wanted to say that for years and years but couldn’t-man you are crazy, but thank you for telling it like it is you are my Reverend Bitch Sir.” So now you know how this title came to be.

So this is a holiday and since my pastor friend also said “I think the web needs something like your site.” re: “Reverend Bitch, Sir”.

Let me offer that instead of celebrating with words that put country before God. Let these words speak to our freedom and greatness as a people of God;

 

“Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

 

Matthew 5:1-12 (New International Version)

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

Traditional Marriage, or Covenants of Love?

Over the last several years, the debate concerning “gay marriage” has risen to new heights of passion and meanness. I suspect the basic reason for this is centered around power and control issues. Those who have defined marriage as the exclusive right of heterosexuals want to continue to control the rules. It is a “Members (who meet the standard) Only Club”.

Marriage in today’s sense is less about two people who love each other deeply and commit to living in a way that will enhance that love. Rather, it is about 1,000+ tax breaks/exemptions, property, and “legitimate” sex – plus inheritance, hospital visitation and medical choices.

When my partner and I got together we could not claim any of those things. In fact we are denied all those things. All we have is our love for each other in the deepest sense of the word. I wonder which scenario God is more concerned about.

We live in a world where marriage vows are usually not worth the paper they are written on – a world where pre-marital counseling is as much about covenants of love as is wedding planning.

Yet the idea of a covenant is the total investment of those involved. I wonder if God is more concerned about broken promises or covenants that call on people to go deeper in their relationship than simple vows. Finally, I wonder from a spiritual perspective if a God who by biblical definition is both male and female is really concerned about the gender identity of a couple who are willing to live in covenant with each other.

After all, when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was – in other words, which commandment should be the basis of who and what we are – his reply was, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

So it seems to me that those who live in glass houses should not be throwing any stones. In my home state of Georgia we once had someone run for Governor who fired an employee because she was a lesbian in a committed relationship, which he claimed was against “moral law”. Of course he didn’t want people to know he had broke state law by committing adultery himself. This hypocrisy prompted a friend of mine to come up with a bumper sticker that read: “**** for Governor: Two first ladies are better than one.”

Making a covenant of love takes the total investment of the two people involved regardless of whether it is between a man and woman, woman and woman or man and man. I would think God is more concerned about covenants that call on all people to go deeper in their relationship than promises designed to get a tax break or make divorce lawyers rich.

My partner and I have been together 25 years and worked through every conceivable challenge to keep our vows to one another. As far as I can tell we have not caused any straight marriages to fail or the collapse of “family values”. We own a home, pay our taxes, contribute to the economy by working and buying products, go to church and to the best of our ability make contributions to the community in which we live.

As for those who might be concerned about what goes on in our bedrooms: We don’t go into your bedroom or concern ourselves with how you express your most intimate feelings. So stay out of ours, because you certainly don’t belong there!

St. Paul defined love in 1 Corinthians 13 by writing: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

If these commandments and definitions are where it begins and ends, then I believe that our God, the God of Jesus the Christ is far more interested in covenants of love regardless of gender identification.

To the morality police and the defenders of traditional marriage: How about you take care and honor the one you love, and we will do the same. Then we all can spend our time, energy and money doing things that really matter to our Creator: Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and those in prison. I dare say the world will have a better chance of survival if we do that, rather than getting so worked up over who is getting married.

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

WADING INTO THE CYBER POOL

I suppose the title of this blog will cause some controversy from more than a few folks…so I suppose I ought to write this blog explaining the title, which is actually my nickname.

That needs to wait as first I should say the reason I am writing this blog is because some people whom I would trust with my life said I should because I might have something to say which might be helpful to folks in the cyber world. I even tried to get out of writing this by stating the title of the blog would be too offensive. Yet, every person I shared the title with were more then happy to tell me it fit perfectly, that it was a perfect description of me and the ministry to which I have been called…so here we go “God help us all”!

Just maybe reading about some of my experiences and observations on this journey as an open, out and proud gay man who is a minister of the “gospel” and who is not politically correct or ashamed to say what is exactly on my mind will be helpful in some small way to others. For those who want to know more about me and the church I pastor you can go to:

Gentle Spirit Christian Church

and

Whosoever 

As an ordained minister with 20 years of pastoral work in the church and in a 25 year committed (read: marriage) relationship with my partner Bill, I have done what the Judeo-Christian church calls each of us to do; “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.” (Micah 6:8). I am a simple pastor, who is not a psychologist, nor a great theological scholar. My posts will come to you from my heart and my experiences as an independent and progressive pastor, as well as one who has studied and tested the Bible for a number of years and who believes the Holy Spirit speaks today as loudly and forcefully as 2,000 years ago. I believe God is calling us to progress to the “Kingdom” rather then conserve the “status quo”.

I hope in writing about my journey some of us will be able to re-claim the faith and individual spirituality that has been hi-jacked by those of whom Jesus said: “”Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when they become one, you make them twice as much a son of hell as you are.” (Matthew 23:15, New International Version) I believe people should be able to have a personal relationship with God that is not defined by traditional or mainline church since it seems they have forgotten about those whom God unconditionally loves in favor of an institution who’s goal is to stay in power through fear, intimidation and damnation. I hope as folks figure out they have been hi-jacked they will again re-claim the proclamation of the Christ which says; “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.” (John 3:16 The Message) I hope and pray that by renewing a personal relationship with God all people will begin to live in the way God will indeed observe in accordance to the words of our Savior: “When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Humanity will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’

“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:31-40 The Message)

We in the church have been battered; beaten and maligned by an institution that has found it’s power in being the authors of morality rather then the carriers of grace and redemption. I hope this blog will cause us once again to begin the journey where first and foremost we strive to be a community where all are viewed as a unique creation of God and where each of us is invested in bringing honor and glory to God. A community where we work to uplift each other and recognize and affirm those qualities in all of us that declare God’s creation as good. Of course this is the thought process which gave me the nick name “Reverend Bitch Sir” but that is a story that will need to wait for another day.

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

Advent: Its Genesis, Meaning, Mood and Message

The Genesis of Advent
Starting in about the 9th century in the Western Church, the season of Advent has been celebrated as a period of preparation for the birth of our Lord and the beginning of the ecclesiastical year (Church year).

In the early church words Advent, Epiphany, and Nativity were used interchangeably to denote the “feast of the Nativity”. Advent services first appeared in the 6th century in the church of Gaul. Epiphany was observed as a baptismal festival and the period preceding it was utilized as a period of preparation for baptism, much like the season of Lent. So Advent originated as a type of “little Lent”. From France the observance spread to England in the 7th and 8th centuries. In the 9th century, Advent was finally incorporated into the Roman Rite.

The Meaning of Advent
The word “Advent” means literally, “to come to”. It is a special season when we celebrate the bold claim that the Lord of the Universe has come among us in human form through Jesus the Christ. In him we have Immanuel, God with us. Not only do we celebrate that God has come to the world in human form from Galilee but also that God is come as a spiritual reality and will come again in triumph at the close of the age.

There is another sense to the definition of Advent, “to come to”. Since God has, is and will come to us, therefore we need “to come to”. Our task as people in full relationship with God is to become fully awake not only to the importance of indwelling but also to the many immersions of Christ in our lives. None of us is fully conscious of God’s presence; we need to come to, to wake up, and be vigilant for the visits of God within history and at the end of time when God’s realm is fully realized.

The Mood of Advent
If God is coming to us and we truly believe that to be true, our mood will be one of excitement, anticipation, and joyful preparation. Mood is conveyed through color and light. As the awareness of the celebrative nature of Advent has grown, many congregations have substituted blue for the older tradition of purple, as we have done in our church. The brighter color of blue, the color of infinite sky, conveys better the bright hope of change and eternal life in the Christ than the more somber and sacrificial purple.

The Message of Advent
As we look at God’s word, we need to understand how the Christ (as the word of God) comes to humankind now and how we can receive and carry the Christ’s presence today. This starts with our attitude… and the guides for which can be found all throughout scripture. I am calling them “Advent Attitudes” — alertness, attentiveness, watchfulness, readiness, joyful anticipation, patience and receptivity. The task then becomes to take a journey over the next 4 weeks to come into a full consciousness with God, who comes to us in Jesus the Christ and in fact be prepared.

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.