Tag Archives: Theology

Bulletproof Faith: New Book for Gays and Lesbians Facing Religious Attacks

I wanted to share this press release with my readers. I am so proud of my friend, colleague and sister, Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge!

A refrain heard relentlessly by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people of faith is: “God hates fags!” Whether it’s hurled as a direct insult or stated more subtly in a “Love the sinner, hate the sin” theology, the message to GLBT ears is the same: “God hates you and so do we!”

“Gay and lesbian people are constantly under attack,” said Rev. Chellew-Hodge, the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians. “We’re unable to marry the person we love, and many support writing that discrimination into the U.S. Constitution. Churches continue to argue about our lives and many insist we must become something called, ‘ex-gay.’ We’re tired of constantly being a target.”

This trend against GLBT people isn’t abating. The church attended by Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin is promoting an “ex-gay” program and Palin herself told the Anchorage Daily News in 2006 that although she “has good friends who are gay” she supports denying them benefits and marriage equality. Republican Presidential Nominee John McCain has also, in the past, expressed his support of constitutional amendments against marriage equality for gays and lesbians in both Arizona and California.

Even Archbishop Desmond Tutu noted in his endorsement of the book that, “Gay and lesbian Christians are constantly demoralized and told they are not children of God. Bulletproof Faith reassures gays and lesbians that God loves them just as they were created and teaches them how to stand strong, with compassion and gentleness, against those who condemn them.”

Bulletproof Faith, published by Jossey-Bass, helps readers reclaim the spiritual self that criticism from society and religion has led them
to give up. Instead of arguing over biblical texts, Bulletproof Faith helps GLBT people live authentically into their faith despite criticism. Bulletproof Faith empowers readers to withstand even the most aggressive assaults without fear, doubt, or anger by providing:

  • Solid, proven tactics that can be used successfully when faced with an attack
  • Practical tools to discover one’s “authentic self”: the bulletproof part of each of us
  • Guidance on how to turn attacks into opportunities for spiritual growth

Bulletproof Faith doesn’t argue; instead Rev. Chellew-Hodge’s approach – born out of 12 years of being on the frontlines in the controversies surrounding gay and Christian identity – teaches readers to draw on their own inner strength and to return abuse with the spiritual Aikido of gentleness, compassion, reverence – and strength.

Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge is the associate pastor at Garden of Grace United Church of Christ in Columbia, S.C., and founder of the online magazine for GLBT Christians called Whosoever, which reaches nearly 1 million people a year. She is an award-winning former journalist with 25 years of experience including six years as a news writer, reporter and editor with CNN. She is a graduate of the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta.

For more information and a free 25-page study guide for Bulletproof Faith, visit http://www.bulletproofbook.com.

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 https://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

30 SECONDS OF FEAR

Friday night March 14, 2008 is going to stay with me for a long time. For that night my partner and I witness all to close the raw fury of nature having a major temper tantrum.

About 9:30pm I settled into my new gaming chair to play my play station 2 major league baseball games. My partner Bill was in the study working on job applications…when it began to rain.

No surprise as that had been the weather forecast for the evening and most of Saturday…thunderstorms and rain. There was nothing about severe weather that caught my attention.

Suddenly our lights flickered and Bill called out from the study asking if it had started to rain? I responded that it had and the lights flickered again. With the 2nd flicker decided to disconnect the computer rather then lose it to a power surge.

I went into the study and started the process of shutting down the computer, when the patio swing began to bang against the side of the house very hard and I thought, “What the hell direction is the wind coming from?” “That swing never hits the house except a little bump now and again and never that hard”…then I heard what I could only describe as a low growl.

I turned around to see what one of our labs, CoCo was growling at; except she wasn’t there…she was in the front room with Bill. The house went completely dark…which was about the time Bill starting shouting, “Oh shit, OH SHIT, TREES ARE FLYING EVERYWHERE…PAUL, PAUL TREES…!”

I came out of the study in time to see the top half of a 50 foot Oak fall not 5 feet from our house. I froze…time stopped except now for an awful sound…I start thinking fast, “we got to get into the crawl space…get all 3 dogs together…damn the bird (A Catalina Macaw) who is now screaming right along with the wind…. Billy, damn get from in front of the window!”

I was never able to verbalize any of those thoughts…I couldn’t move…I couldn’t speak…I just stood there watching hell breaking loose all around my house. Then just as quickly as it started, it stopped. It was still, death still…no noise, no wind, no rain.

We opened the front door and what we saw was beyond anything I can find the proper words for. The steps leading to the deck of our house were smashed flat by the falling tree. Billy’s Honda was a good two feet lower to the ground; the back tires flat, windows blown out. My Nissan top was caved in…our drive way was nothing but tree branches and debris.

We started to pick our way through the branches when we were hit in the eyes by the neighbors flashlight, yelling, “Are you hurt? Are you OK?” I said, “yes, just shook, but yea we are fine.”

Bill and I along with the neighbor got to the street and saw huge 100-year oaks down everywhere. Houses that stood for years in this neighborhood were now damaged beyond recognition by the huge trees falling into them. Wires were down all over and still no sound except the voices in the neighborhood of people coming out of their homes calling to others, “Are you OK? Do you need help?”

Bill and I and the rest of the neighborhood spent the next several hours making sure everybody was OK. Amazingly, no was killed, no was hurt. The only death on our street that night was a squirrel that had gotten trapped with the falling tree. In the quiet of the aftermath of the storm it’s screaming was mind numbing…then it stopped. It served as a reminder how close we all had come to the same fate.

One lady on our street had been at her computer just before the fury hit. Had her husband not dragged her away from the computer and to the basement of their house…well she was sitting directly in the spot a 10’ diameter tree crashed into the front of the house.

2 hours into this a police officer came down the street telling us we ought to get back inside as another storm was on it’s way. I thought to myself, “dear God we can’t take another hit, enough, enough!”

We went back inside and decided to try to sleep on the fold out couch, as the idea of more storms and trees crashing through our up-stairs was not a pleasant thought.

The dogs, Sara-14, CoCo and Koda both 3 were breathing and panting so hard, we thought they would have heart attacks and they could not get close enough to Bill and I. So, there we were Bill, me and three 70-pound dogs on the fold out trying to sleep but not getting there, for if we went to sleep, it might not end.

Around 5am the 2nd round of storms arrived…no real wind but lots of thunder and lightening. We just lay there hoping and praying to see the break of day.

I guess some sleep came as we were awoken to the sound of chain saws and heavy equipment removing trees and debris…the beautiful sound of life, the sounds of renewal.

In the daylight I could see where the tree had been broken off and hurled to the ground and knew that with a just slight twist of the wind, rather then the cars it would have been the house and where Billy was standing…and I began to cry… it was too close, too fast and I had froze and would have never been able to save him. It hit me hard, that I am not ready to die, not ready to be a widow, not ready to not see my friends, my congregation, or my family. It also became very apparent that the Reverend Bitch. Sir is not so tough or so in control as I think I am.

The words of Jesus floated into my mind,

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” (Matthew 6:25)

 

Yes, I was reminded of an important lesson…life is fragile…the love we share with someone can be gone in an instant…in 30 seconds or less it can all be gone and with a lot of stuff unfinished.

Our Church celebrated its 10th anniversary Saturday evening. I cannot explain how good it felt to have one more opportunity to see the people I love, to hold, to hug, to have the opportunity to tell each and everyone of them I love them, need them, want to be with them as long as possible. I will endeavor to remember this 1st and foremost in the good times as well as the rough.

Oh yea one more thing just in case my husband ever wonders or has any doubts, he can come back and read this testimony. Cause you know folks you can’t say this enough or write this in enough places for the one you love…

“Bill, I love you with all my heart. I cannot imagine life without you and I praise God this night and every night that I have another day to share with you. Each night when I go to sleep with you in my arms I will know that God has looked upon us and said, “It is good, it is good.”

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 https://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

New Testament and Homosexuality Teleseminar

From Romans 1 to 1 Corinthians, GLBT people are told that the New Testament is a source of condemnation of their very lives. When people quote Bible verses against GLBT people, these two verses are most often used from the New Testament.

Our second part of the Homosexuality and the Bible teleseminar series has been scheduled. Here is the info:

  • Date: Tuesday, March 4, 2008
  • Time: 7 p.m. Eastern Time
  • Hosted By: Rev. Paul M. Turner, Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church in Atlanta, Georgia and Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge, founder and editor of Whosoever Magazine
  • Cost: One time donation of $5.00 to Whosoever

In this upcoming seminar you’ll discover that these texts and other “clobber” passages from the New Testament are not texts of terror for GLBT, but instead re texts of hope and affirmation.

In this teleseminar you’ll learn:

  • Why Romans 2 is just as important as Romans 1
  • Why 1 Corinthians may hold more condemnation for those who condemn GLBT people
  • How to answer those who use these verses to condemn you

For a one-time tax-deductible donation of $5.00 to Whosoever you can join the call, receive a workbook and notes along with access to a recording of the call afterward.

Whether you’ve heard this material a million times or if this is the first time, you’ll come away blessed and able to defend yourself whenever someone tries to use Scripture to condemn you.

We want as many people as possible to be able to take advantage of this seminar so we’ve lowered our suggested donation to $5.00 to make sure the price is not too steep for anyone who wishes to be part of the call.

We look forward to “seeing” you on the call!

We had a blast at the Old Testament and Homosexuality teleseminar. Audio of that seminar is available here.

Blessings,
Rev. Candace and Pastor Paul

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 https://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

WHEN DID WE FORGET…?

Listening to the news, reading the blogs and listening to “professional Christians talk today I was left with some questions.

When did the church quite being “followers of Christ” and become the zealots of “power and control”?

When did we forget the main teaching of Jesus the Christ was to call people back into relationship with God?

When did we forget most of Jesus’ teachings around God were about what it was like to be with God and how God desires to be with us?

When did we forget that Jesus lived a life of forgiveness and grace as opposed to condemnation and exclusion?

When did we forget Jesus was born out of wedlock?

When did we forget the first response of Jesus to a major challenge was to pray?

When did we forget that when Jesus fed people they did not have to fill out paper work?

When did we forget that at one time Jesus was an “illegal immigrant”?

When did we forget Jesus taught us to turn the other check?

When did we forget Jesus taught that “murder” was wrong regardless if we thought it justified or not?

When did we forget that Jesus said, “let the one without sin” cast the first stone”?

When did we forget that Jesus taught that divorce was not a good idea? (Hummm…. maybe we forgot this one when we quit being careful who we hooked up with.)

When did we forget that Jesus looked into the eyes of one clearly condemned and guilty of the crime for which they were accused and said: “I accuse you not”?

When did we forget that Jesus taught us not to swear an oath by God, but let our yes be yes and our no be no?

When did we forget that Jesus taught us to love our enemies?

When did we forget Jesus taught if asked for our coat we should give our shirt too?

When did we forget that Jesus said those who are not against us are for us?

When did we forget the greatest love we can show is when we lay our life down for our friends?

When did we forget the meaning of the words when Jesus taught us to pray like this:

 

“This, then, is how you should pray:
” ‘Our Creator in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
as we also have forgiven those who sin against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil ‘ for if you forgive people when they sin against you, your heavenly Creator will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive their sins, your Creator will not forgive your sins.

 

When did we forget the living standard Jesus was teaching when he said:

 

“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 children 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.

When did we forget the only commandment that Jesus gave us is:

 

“… Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

 

Finally but not least…when did we forget the judgment of God would be based on these words of Jesus:

 

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

I am not sure, as I am just one little queer preacher who according to the professional Christian is going to burn in hell…but it appears we might be putting far to much time effort and money into the wrong things. Seems to me we might be living in a different kind of world if more folks were remembering these afore mentioned things each day. Just a disturbing thought.

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 https://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

YES TO 2008: BRING IT ON!

I was sitting here this afternoon thinking I should write something for the end of the year.

Of course that is what everybody is doing. Looking back over all the stuff that happened during 2007. The year 2007 will be reviewed in print, in video and radio till we are just sick of it.

There will be plenty of “this was a horrible year” or “this was a great year” or “the best and worst stuff” written about. So I was stuck as to what to write about which would not be the same old stuff.

Then I remembered an old quote from a former Hall of Fame major league baseball pitcher by the name of Satchel Paige; “Never look behind you, cause something might be gaining on you.” Ain’t that the truth?

In addition our faith calls upon us because of the Christ to be forward looking. St. Paul writes,

“I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.” (Philippians 3:13-14 (The Message) )

This past year has been full of challenges; very difficult times and full of loss…but St. Paul’s words are so true for those of us who claim a relationship with God.

I might be a little too arrogant here, but I am looking forward to 2008 and the incredible good things that will happen!

The ministry which I am blessed to be apart of is on the edge of doing some things that most Pastors can only dream of. March 15, 2008 Gentle Spirit Christian Church will be 10 years old. Given our start and our journey of faith this is no small accomplishment.

I look forward to 2008 because I am the pastor of real life heroes. In a day when we lack for people we can call heroes, I am truly blessed.

I am the pastor of a church that has some of the most resilient and gutsy people on the planet. It takes great effort to break down the walls of tradition that is suffocating and more about morality and rules rather than relationship with and the grace of God.

On any given Sunday, there will be gay, straight men and women, bi, lesbian and transgender folks worshiping together. There will be white, black and Latino all worshiping together. It takes guts to see each other as a true child of God.

There will be Evangelical, Progressive, Moderate Christians, and followers of Jesus, Buddhists, and church questioning folks all worshiping together. It takes guts to allow for many paths to God.

It takes guts and resilience to move the worship time out of doors and never cancel a service because of the weather. Our service moved outdoors Labor Day weekend of 2006.

Worship took place regardless of 100-degree temperatures or a temperature in the 30’s with wind and rain. The congregation was always there with food for the picnic after they had worshipped and praised God.

It takes guts in this day and age to worship outside in a public city park where anybody could show up looking for God knows what. Anything from needing some travel money to some food to get through the day. There have been people showing up needing help finding shelter, or finding a way to get into recovery. Every one of those folks has been welcomed with open arms by each of the people in church that day. The people attending church that day have helped every one of those folks in some way. It did not matter if it was giving a few dollars, a ride, a hug, a smile, or the assurance of support for the need.

Yes, it takes guts to “walk the talk” and love rather then hate, support rather then condemn, embrace rather then shun, include rather than exclude. It takes a special kind of faith to give up the comforts of a building; the security of locked doors and is front and center in the community.

It takes guts to be in church where one’s pets are as important as the people.

Those worshipping in the park every Sunday give a new sense of affirmation to God’s people. An affirmation, which says the people are more important then buildings, committee’s and rules.

Those who worship each Sunday give a loud and visible witness that feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned is far more important then having a church building where the utility bills are 10 times more then the benevolence fund.

I look forward to 2008 because of the heroes God has brought to this ministry.

People have heard God’s call and they have answered. The wealth of talented and spiritually diverse people God has brought into our midst is astounding!

We already had an outstanding Deacon who had become a “jack of all trades” and a dedicated treasurer, but we have added an assistant pastor, a vicar of education, a church administrative assistant, prayer warriors, and a marketing professional. All of who give of their time, talents efforts without seeking a salary or fee.

We have a core group of people who with a simple phone call will help with housing, food, medical, recovery issues, mental health issues, jobs, legal matters, financial needs and transportation.

We have people who have simply opened their homes to those who needed a place to stay; no conditions to length of time, no expectations of being paid…just opened their home.

We have people whom week after week brought food for those who had none.

We have people whom week after week, have provided rides to doctors, grocery stores, hospitals, to jobs or back home.

We have people whom have volunteered to help people move, gave money to those in need with no expectation of every getting one dime back.

We have those who call the church office week after week to inquire about any special prayer concerns.

We have group of people who walk 3 miles to church each and every Sunday regardless of weather.

We have a group of people who can testify to the healing power of God almost daily.

These folks are all heroes because in a world where recognition, wealth, power and control mean everything, it means nothing to them. Except for here most of you will never hear of them in the media or in the power places of the community.

I thank God for these faithful people of God:

Braden Baker
Allen Bozeman
Robbin Brown
Rev. Jarrod Cochran and Erin
Kim and Sharon Dugan
Gareth Fenely
Carmen Gonzales
Maru Gonzales
Lance Helms
Monica Helms
Corey Hoblit
Vicar Alyce Keener
Teresa Kenney
Deb Wolfe
Ann Marie Knittel
Estelle LeClaire and Erin
Christopher Martinez
Maura NiConnell (Spike)
Richard Ozveth
William Pabst
Caroline Ray
Rev. Judy McVey
Nancy Vandyke
Deacon Bob Shaw
Clinton Silver
Phyllis Silver
Susan Stephens
Jeff Tatum
Father Warren Taylor
Charles Smith
James Langston
Bill Smith
Bill Bailey
Charles Harris
Wolf Thomas
Jennifer Turner
Enrique Silvani
Zan Thornton and Elizabeth
Melissa White
Bill Butler
Darrell Grizzle
Aaron Angel
Tom Rose
Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge
Rev. Guy Kent
Rev. James Brewer-Calvert

Yes, I am more then just a little excited and looking forward to 2008. I cannot wait to see and experience the new heroics these people will do by the power of God!

Yes to 2008: bring it on!

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 https://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

Shedding the Trappings, and the Traps, of the Traditional Church

I got a call today from one of my friends that I have not seen for a long time. Stacy who is a very conservative Christian was concerned about my state of mind. She has never liked the fact I was gay and has spent the last 30 years or so praying God would turn me into butch straight man. Right, like that was going to happen!

She has gone through 4 husbands to date…so maybe…nah not going there!

She had “bumped” into our website and after being horrified we don’t think “homosexuals” are going to burn in hell and her heart almost stopped when she read our mission statement.

Then she saw where we were worshipping, not just occasionally but 52 weeks out of the year.

She almost yelled at me, “your church services are held in a park…outside…without walls…where everybody can see who you are…have you lost your mind?” Don’t you know that if you are going to be a church and preach all this stuff that will piss good Christian people off, you should be inside where it is safe?”

Well the long and short of it was I got her calmed down and we had a great conversation about why we moved outside and how the biggest desire of this congregation besides serving God was to “walk the talk”.

After I hung up I wondered how many other people think I (we) are insane. Maybe that is why growth has been a little slow…it takes guts to worship in a public park. I say it takes guts because of

1. The weather-there is sometimes too much heat, other times not nearly enough heat. Of course there are the times the roof (sky) leaks rather substantially. Of course then there is the wind. Things can and do blow around.

2. In the spring and summer there are plenty of ants, gnats, flies and mosquitoes, the occasional bee or wasp.

3. There are lots of other people in the park, with their kids laughing and carrying on. Cars coming and going.

4. The city garbage people managed to show up each week to empty the trashcans around the pavilion during our worship time.

5. There is a huge soccer league just across from us, which gets pretty loud sometimes.

6. There are also the strange looks you get from some folks as they walk by…

So yea I guess it takes some guts to meet outside for church. It takes a person really choosing to be there. It takes a willingness to let God be the decorator, rather then some architect. It takes a conscious choice to dress for the weather rather then for people’s approval.

It means being committed each time you come to bring food for the picnic after church rather then having some committee sign people up to serve coffee and cookies after service.

It means that anyone and I do mean anyone can show up for church and not look out of place. It also means that an important part of the congregation on any given Sunday is our pets.

It means you know where most of Jesus’ ministry took place.

It also means one is willing to practice their faith right out in the open for everyone to see.

This also means that the walls that keep many folks out of church are now gone.

Over the years the church buildings and what goes on inside out of sight from the world has come to represent for some people the worst of Christianity.

You have rules for dress.

Rules for who is and isn’t a member.

Rules for who can be in the building and when.

Rules for when the building will actually be unlocked and available for prayer or meditation. I have to say most buildings are locked up tight all week and only open on Sunday.

Rules as to what groups can and cannot use the building.

Rules for building use-“we can’t have homosexuals, drug addicts, homeless people, transgender, drunks, non-bible believing Christians, or other unrepentant sinners occupying the property”.

My God, the fights…fights over whose property is it anyway? Think I am kidding, just ask any Episcopal, Lutheran, United Methodist or Presbyterian.

Fights over who gave more to the building fund and therefore should have more say in the building use.

Fights over the way the building should look; the fancier the better…the bigger the better.

Fights over the signage; what kind, how big, what should it say?

Fights over how the decorations will be placed or should there be decorations.

Fights over the flowers each week and what kind of flowers or plants he or she will bring.

The list is endless and when you really stop and think about all of the aforementioned stuff, it really gets in the way of the message and what church is suppose to be about.

I guess it is pretty hard to worship God when you are upset about what happened at a trustees meeting and you find yourself sitting somewhere other then your special pew by your favorite stain glass window.

Maybe I have lost my mind but I think I prefer God’s house to worship in.

God’s house is decorated to perfection every Sunday. The seasonal church colors take care of themselves.

Even if nobody volunteers to be in the choir, each Sunday in God’s house there is a choir from the birds, kids laughter and the wind through the trees.

We have truly learned what it is to make a joyful noise!

In God’s house passersby stop for a moment to say hello, meet the pets or wait till a prayer is finished.

In God’s house folks feel free to share a bite to eat.

In God’s house it will never be locked and is always available for prayer, walks or some alone time.

In God’s house there is room for any and all who want to come. There are no doors, windows or walls to block the movement of the Holy Spirit.

In God’s house there is wild, crazy and wonderful feeling of peace, community and solitude all at the same time.

If this is insanity then it not such a bad place to be!

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 https://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

WHOM SHALL I SEND

I now really understand “writer’s cramp” or writer’s block. I am sure some of you have noticed this blog has been pretty dry over the last couple of weeks.

It is not like there is not plenty for me to write about, bitch about or for that matter celebrate. Yet, according to one of my friends this is something that happens to all blogger’s and really good writers, so I guess I find myself in good company.

I think another reason for my block is that I am extremely nervous and excited about a meeting a pastor colleague and I are hosting tomorrow. This meeting is about bringing some fire to a vision I have had of the church for almost the entire time I have been in ministry, probably as far back as when I first felt called to follow this one called Jesus.

As long as I can remember these words of scripture have rested in my soul:

John 3:16
Micah 6:8
Matthew 22:34-40
Matthew 25:31-40
James 3:17
John 14:1-4
Romans 8:31-39

These were and are the passages that drive me, haunt me and really define who and what I am as a pastor.

I say drive me because to me they seem to be the core of what a follower of Jesus strives to be about.

I say they define me because despite falling far short I really try to live my life by what these passages proclaim. For me this is not a head thing but a matter of my heart, the depths of my soul.

I say they haunt me because the church I grew up in and the church universal today seems to have forgotten these passages and lives out an existence that is more about exclusion than inclusion, more about money and prestige rather then simple service, more about moral enforcement and judgment rather than sharing and proclaiming grace, more about dogma and creeds rather than openness and an intentional inclusive community.

Because of the afore mentioned the church universal is no longer safe, no longer a place of peace, no longer a place of refuge from the terrors of the world. Hell it is not even a refuge from the terrors brought about by so-called Christian leaders. So I am haunted…what would God have me to do? How does one little gay pastor push the church universal back to its roots, back to a time when God, not rules were the order of the day?

Frankly, I was pretty content to try to do that with Gentle Spirit Christian Church. We are a church “without walls”. Every day of our existence we try to “walk the talk” and some days we do better then others. Those scriptures I mentioned are apart of our core beliefs, they in fact drive our church.

Yet I have been restless, frustrated and disappointed as we fall short of the need of the larger community.

This was made so clear to me several months back when I was at a meeting with a group of clergy who had receive a large sum of money to used to feed the hungry.

Now folks we are a good hour into the meeting debating the rules for this food distribution. Rules for how to fill out the paper work, which people get the food, how much and how many times a month. There was even discussion, no actually an argument over how much info to keep on file and not mess with people’s privacy.

To this point I had been very quiet and trying to devise an excuse to leave, when one of the pastor’s asked me what I thought. I said they probably did not want to hear what I was thinking, but I was encouraged to share.

So I told them I was thinking about the story of Jesus when he fed the 5,000. Of course all these pastors started nodding their heads in agreement. However, I was stuck on the differences of that story and what was being discussed. See I wondered who of the disciples went through the crowd that day and had the folks fill out the paper work? Which of disciples did the assessments of who was in real need? Was there somebody who determined if the folks who got the food were just going from rabbi to rabbi to eat each day?

As you might imagine my questions were not well received and I have not been invited back to any more meetings.

My next few prayer times with God were screaming sessions.

“Is this really all there is? Is this the kind of ministry you want? Damn you…give me something…give some sign I am not an idiot…tell me some how these scriptures are really central…damn it do something!”

Then Lance from our church introduced me to Rev. Jarrod Cochran, a straight evangelical Christian who had a vision and was trying to get a movement started.

A movement of “Progressive Christians”, A Mustard Seed Revolution of Grace, Love, Mercy, and Inclusion…” On his website he explained is efforts.

“The Progressive Christian Movement seeks to unite followers of Jesus and reclaim our hijacked faith. This movement is one fueled by love, the message of grace, and the desire to leave no one on the outside looking in. This movement is looking for speakers, ministers, writers, activists, singers, dancers, painters, to join in this revolution of grace. The world needs you. We need you. Jesus needs you. Won’t you join us?”

His website included the following ideals:

· Jesus’ central message is about radical inclusion, thus we welcome anyone to participate in our fellowship without judgment or forcing them to conform to our “likeness” or affirm our creeds in order to be accepted. We invited and offer all a place at the table – no exceptions.

· Faith is not about concrete answers, religious absolutes, creeds, or dogma. Faith is about the search for understanding, the raising of important questions, the open honesty of having doubt, and the realization that no one has it all completely right nor does any human hold all the answers. We seek to follow the advice found in 1st Thessalonians 5:21, which is to “seek truth out in all things and hold firmly onto that which is good.”

· Religious absolutes of dogma, legalism, and strict doctrine become stumbling blocks and “litmus tests” for who is “in” and who is “out” of the circle of God’s grace. These false tests that Jesus never required get in the way of truly following Jesus and his teachings.

· Following Jesus is counter-cultural, radical, and disrupts the status quo. The good news of the gospel is intentional in its inclusion of those who are traditionally marginalized and refused by Mainline Christianity.

· The words of Jesus found in the gospels are to be the focus for any disciple of him. We submit the rest of Scripture to the position of “sacred commentary.”

· Recognition and affirmation of the differing belief systems of others, whose faiths offer a way into relationship with God and call upon them to further God’s love and grace on the earth, is crucial. Jesus revealed this path in the acts and works of the Gospel According to Matthew, chapters 5-7; and demonstrated this inclusion on many occasions – including in his witnessing and affirmation of the Samaritan woman, whose culture and people were looked down upon for worshipping God in a different way (the Gospel According to John 4:1-42). As Jesus taught and revealed through example, any “spiritual” or “non-spiritual” person adhering to this way of life are indeed furthering the Reign of God and God’s message of radical love and inclusion here on earth. As Jesus said, “Anyone who is for us cannot be against us” (the Gospel According to Mark 9:39-41).

· Creating fellowships and communities that are dedicated to lifting up, affirming, and equipping one another for the work the Spirit of God has called us to in Micah 6:8: active peacemaking, striving for justice and equality of all people and nations, loving those who are labeled by our government, society, and – at times – ourselves, as “enemies,” caring for God’s creation, and bringing hope to the poor and poverty-stricken.

· God created humans with a brain capable of discovery and reason. God does not require us to “check our brains at the door,” along with our coat and hat in order to be a part of the faith. Faith and Science are not in conflict; they are in harmony. The Bible is not a Science textbook and should never be taken as such. We affirm that if God is truth, then any discovery we make about ourselves, our origins, or the way the universe was created has come from God and should not be viewed as heresy.

· The Church is not simply a four-walled institution, but a ministry without walls that surrounds and encompasses everything and everywhere we go. Our brothers and sisters are not only those who label themselves as “Christian,” but are everyone we meet. Ministers and adherents of the PCM recognize that their ministry does not begin only when they are behind a pulpit or that their witness is only conveyed through spoken word; but their ministry extends to all places and their witness is conveyed by their actions.

Praise to God, I am not alone! There might be a way for the church universal to live out those scriptures! There might be a way to make the church safe again, a way to recapture the mission of God’s church.

So tomorrow Rev. Jarrod and I have invited 30 clergy persons to a meeting to see if others see what we see. Ten have committed to be there and the rest who can’t make it want to be kept in the loop.

Maybe there is something to this. Maybe God is still calling. Maybe we are still listening. Maybe the commission given to Isaiah will be born yet again:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
The whole earth is full of his glory.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”

Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send I!”

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 https://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

THE WEAPON OF FEAR

Homophobia: Function: noun Date: 1969: irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals. (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

Interesting how this irrational fear of the religious zealots of the world becomes their strongest weapon against our friends and us.

The religious zealots of the world are so “fearful” of homosexuals or anyone for that matter that doesn’t fit their definition of gender identity or orientation and their fight so fierce that they throw ever manner of fecal matter at the fan and it just blows out all over the place and some of it sticks to us. Especially…

The fear about where we will end up after death. Not to mention the fear of another Sodom and Gomorrah.

We seem to fear that if we pursue the life of our God given orientation we will end up in this place that some call hell. A horrible place where we will be separated from God for all eternity.

I have come to recognize that this fear and concern is deeply rooted in the way we were and are taught to view God. So in essence, the only way to get past those fears is to change the way we view God.

I have recently been re-reading a book written by Bruce Bawer, called Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity. From this book I have come to understand the real source of our fears when it comes to sexuality.

The source of this fear is the difference between an attitude of love and an attitude of law. On page 5 of this book Mr. Bauer states:

“Simply stated, conservative Christianity focuses primarily on law, doctrine, and authority; liberal Christianity focuses on love, spiritual experience and.the priesthood of all believers. If conservative Christians emphasize the Great Commission–the resurrected Christ’s injunction, at the end of the Gospel according to Matthew, ‘go to all the nations and make them my disciples’–liberal Christians place more emphasis on the Great Commandment, which in Luke’s Gospel reads as follows; ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.'”

What these few words essentially say is that we have a choice as to whether we understand and live with a God as a strict authoritarian who demands that all come to God in a specify way or we understand and live with a God as a loving Creator who desires that all would come to God and would treat each other accordingly.

All one has to do is read the story or the prodigal son to make the obvious choice.

Yet, what we get focused on is a point of view that is based on the law and authority figures that have decided they speak on behalf of God. “The whole world will go to hell in a hand basket if the homos are given any dignity, acceptance or love.”

So, yes there is a choice to be made.

However, I must say to believe that God would create something with free will and then ultimately destroy that creation because it did not make the choice to follow the law is rubbish.

If this were true, why provide Jesus the Christ as Savior?

Why did Jesus spend almost his entire earthly ministry bringing the outcasts, those outside the law back to the fold?

Why did Jesus, when asked to state what the greatest commandment was, say to Love God and to love your Neighbor?

He never said in order to be okay with God and not go to hell you must obey the law of the day, rather he spent all of his time telling folks to love God and giving them example after example of how they could show and could live that love.

The women caught in adultery released, the raising of Lazarus, the blind person healed, the Roman Centurion slave healed, the women with the issue of blood healed.

Jesus’ words:

“Be not be judges of others, and you will not be judged. For as you have been judging, so you will be judged, and with your measure will it be measured to you. And why do you take note of the grain of dust in your brother’s eye, but take no note of the bit of wood which is in your eye?”
–Matthew 7: 1-3

“Then Jesus said to the people and to his disciples: The scribes and the Pharisees have the authority of Moses; All things, then, which they give you orders to do, these do and keep: but do not take their works as your example, for they say and do not. They make hard laws and put great weights on men’s backs; but they themselves will not put a finger to them…
Matthew 23:1-4

“But a curse is on you, scribes and Pharisees, false ones! Because you are shutting the kingdom of heaven against men: for you do not go in yourselves, and those who are going in, you keep back. A curse is on you, scribes and Pharisees, false ones! For you go about land and sea to get one disciple and, having him, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. A curse is on you, blind guides, who say, whoever takes an oath by the Temple, it is nothing; but whoever takes an oath by the gold of the Temple, he is responsible. You foolish ones and blind: which is greater, the gold, or the Temple which makes the gold holy?”
–Matthew 23: 13-17

Yes, we can choose to live in fear by the law and the authority of those around us or we can choose to live by the words of Jesus and his examples.

We can belong to the church of the Pharisees, Scribes and St. Paul or we can belong to the faith that Jesus spent his ministry building and ultimately died for.

A faith that was to include all those whom the religious leaders of the day said was not part of God. I might add they would not be well received today either.

In the end the religious right gets and maintains its power from our fear. Fear of what our relationship with God is going to be and look like in the hereafter.

This fear is the exact opposite of everything Jesus taught. If we are to really be the beautiful creation that God intended then we must begin to listen to, believe and live the word’s of Jesus when he said to the disciples and to each of us today; “fear not, it is I!”

Gee, who knows… if we stop living in fear, the world might stop killing each other in an effort to prove who belongs to God.

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 https://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

So How Stupid Has the Church Become?

So I am sitting at my computer when the following news story pops up on my screen:

BAR Editorial Asks: Why apologize?
From Gay Religion: news of religion and GLBT folks by thomas c jackson

Why apologize?

San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer gave Communion to two members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence a couple weeks ago when he celebrated Mass at Most Holy Redeemer in the Castro. The service was videotaped, and now, of course, the right-wing anti-gay forces are all in lather. Bill O’Reilly gave the incident his “Talking Points” treatment, and apparently the archdiocese received hundreds of angry e-mails.

So Niederauer has issued an apology, but one in which he attempts to place blame on the Sisters who wished to receive Communion. They came into church in their mock habits and in full drag makeup, and he writes that while he has “often seen photographs” of the Sisters, he didn’t recognize them. Why is that their fault? “As I recall one of them wore a large flowered hat or garland,” Niederauer writes in his column, which is online and is to be published Friday in Catholic San Francisco.

Now what struck me about this was that an Archbishop found it necessary to apologize for giving communion to members of the “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence”. Huh? Bill O’Reilly gets his undies in a wad and the church receives a few hundred e-mail and this Archbishop feels the need to make them feel better by apologizing because he gave the ultimate act of grace to members of a highly successful community non-profit group?

Let me stop for a second and let the readers catch up. “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence” according to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia is described as follows:

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are “radical genderfuck” artists, [1] activists and self-described 21st century nuns [2] for the queer (gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, lesbian, kink, etc.) communities and they fulfill a unique role for queers, which historically have faced institutionalized religious and governmental demonization and persecution. [3][4] They are highly visible gay icons and social activists and have used their visibility to advance a host of human rights and liberal issues both within the LGBT community and in mainstream society. The most visible and well known is Sister Roma.

The international network of Orders is mostly non-profit charity organizations within their countries, raising money for AIDS, other LGBT-related charities and mainstream community service organizations, helping lead the campaign for safer sex and harm reduction, [4] performing modern ritual and educating on various issues and against hate crimes.

The Sisters have been considered controversial by various members both within and outside the LGBT and queer communities but have gotten the harshest criticism for obvious parodies of Catholic icons and policies.

Originally, the organization included only gay male nuns, but it now includes people of all genders and orientations including intersex, homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, and transgender.

From San Francisco, Sister Hellen Wheels, Sister Kitty Catalyst O.C.P. and Sister Flora Goodthyme at SF’s club Mezzanine for Michael Brandon Blessing photo: Mark Englelhart

The organization was started in 1979 in San Francisco, California, and has more than six hundred nuns worldwide [5] with new members joining regularly and new houses being established.

The San Francisco Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have raised well over $1,000,000 and distributed it to non-profit organizations that serve not only the queer and sex positive communities but also mainstream organizations that don’t discriminate their charity work such as the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund [citation needed] and women’s breast cancer charities including Wendy’s Hope. [6]

The Sisters’ state vows to promulgate universal joy and expiate stigmatic guilt [7] while serving their respective communities.

This incredible group and their work have spread all over the world. Chapters can be found all over Europe, South America and of course here in the United States where there are 16 chapters from coast to coast. They have saved untold number of lives with their acts of charity and education.

So why shouldn’t two members of this group get communion? Because they poke fun at the Roman Catholic Church with their satire through activism, dress and actions?

Or maybe it is because they have raised money for the wrong groups. I wonder if the good Archbishop would have felt differently if they had raised a million dollars for the Roman Church to continue it’s pay offs of their latest scandal?

Of course if the afore mentioned is reason to deny one communion then I suspect there are many Roman Catholics who should be turned away right along with the sisters.

The “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence” offered these statements as part of a press release concerning this whole event:

“…We would like to take this opportunity to state again that, contrary to the spin of right-wing fanatics, that the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence do not “mock nuns” but live “as nuns,” taking vows that affirm the traditional compassionate and justice-seeking ministries of religious women, extending their reach beyond the convent walls to those most in need. We are open and supportive of all forms of spirituality that teach respect for human life, diversity, freedom and community, including those of the Catholic Church. In fact, we have given several thousand dollars in grants to several religious-based organizations, including Most Holy Redeemer.

It is no secret that our vows sometimes call us to challenge the dogmas and hypocrisies of the Catholic hierarchy, in the same way they call us to confront politicians and even leaders within the queer community whenever they use their power and influence to promote fear, shame, division, and self-hatred. It is a bittersweet irony that these same forces of fear and shame now use the media to twist a moment of genuine communion into another justification for policies that harm people of faith and members of the LGBTQ community.

In keeping with our vows to expiate stigmatic guilt and promulgate universal joy, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence call on all people of good faith to oppose those who would desecrate the sanctity of a church and defile a moment of true communion for cheap political gain. In a world wracked by violence and fear, we have no time for such lies and will continue to serve our community by boldly proclaiming that joy is more powerful than shame.

We extend our sincerest gratitude and affection to the parishioners of Most Holy Redeemer and hope that their new Archbishop continues to walk with them in service to the gospel of joy and justice.”

According to Roman Catholic Catechism the benefits of the Sacrament of Holy Communion are:

“The benefits of this sacrament are pointed out by the words, given and shed for you for the remission of sins. These words assure us that in the sacrament we receive forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.”

Therefore, people who take Communion usually have some sense of where they are at (or not at) with God. They want to be where Jesus is. Maybe it’s because they know they need Jesus, or because they just love Jesus, or because they want to follow Jesus. When they come for communion, they’ve come to the right place. That’s where Jesus is.

So these two folks simply within their faith and love for God came to where Jesus is and the Archbishop found it appalling this happened and apologized. Of course he wasn’t too appalled till Bill O’Rielly and a few hundred religious fanatics were. Now I ask you, how stupid is that?

The Archbishop said he did not recognize who they were. Well of course he didn’t.

Instead what he saw were Christ’s sheep in need of nourishment, grace and love. In that moment of Sacrament it mattered not who they were but rather they were of Christ’s flock.

Now I don’t care how you spin it, but to apologize for that is just plain stupid.

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 https://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.

THE SALT OF THE EARTH…

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by people. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put in under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everything in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, that they may see your good deeds and praise your God in heaven.” Matthew 5: 13-16

I have taken a closer look at these words…more specifically the “who” they were spoken to. I have started asking the question of “who” was Jesus talking to a lot these days. Who were these words aimed at?

In the light of the onslaught of hate and outright evil that is being played out towards our community today by religious “Reich” and far to many in the mainline church, asking who is this messaged aimed is timely.

Who was sitting on the hillside or in the meadows listening so intently to the words of one who seemed to understand their hurt, their need, and their hunger?

Understanding, the “who” will change the message and its impact. Understanding the “who” can and does effect how we relate to our God and to ourselves.

Listening closely that day were the lepers. These were the people affected by a disease that was not understood and contagious. They were not allowed sanctuary within the mainline tradition of the temple. Instead, they were put off to some far corner of society to fend and make due for themselves.

There were prostitutes, in an act of survival sold themselves to other people so that they would have food to eat. They served a need of the rich, but they too were thought of as the dregs of society.

There were those women who were childless and therefore considered outside the realm of blessing by a God who demanded procreation as that sign of blessing.

There were the poor, who by their lack of money, land or prestige were outcasts in a society that demanded one have these things in ordered to be heard and to be genuine contributing member of that time.

There were the blind, the deaf, the emotional distressed, the physically handicapped. All of who did not measure up to the standards set by the religious leaders to be worthy of God.

There were the outcasts of the society because they were not married. There were those who were not pretty enough, smart enough, strong enough to be considered worthy of the great institution care and or concern for their welfare.

Yes, God forbid, there were homosexuals and those who expressed sexuality in ways that no person in their “right” mind would tolerate much less include as a part of the proclaimed good of society.

So is not the LGBTQ community part of this audience today? Is the audience of Jesus’ words really all that different today? I think not!

Are we not a people who are affected by a disease that is in reality little understood, is contagious and thought to be of our own doing a curse by God? Before you object remember there are people in our own community who say AIDS is about our lack of sexual responsibility and promiscuity and therefore we reap what we sow.

Are we not a people who prostitute ourselves to eat and have shelter? Are we not a people who look for the rich, the famous, and the influential to feel good about ourselves? After all we can prostitute ourselves in so many ways aside from sexual encounters.

Are we not accused of not contributing to society through the act procreation? Yet at the same time accused of gathering and influencing children to our side on one hand and on the other hand denied the ability to give a child a home that is safe and loving?

Are we not a people who are poor? We can’t afford or get health insurance for our partners. We can’t protect our property and pass on to our loved one without a fight and at the cost of huge amounts of money that no other married couple is expect to expend?

Are we not blind both spiritually and physically to the world around us? Are we not told we are blind for not seeing the only right relationship with God is to follow the traditional teachings and beliefs?

Do broken relationships, unacceptable relationships, broken families, and un-acceptable families distress us not emotional?

Are we not outcasts because our relationships do not meet the standard definition of “marriage” and therefore are denied the benefits afforded to those who meet that definition?

Is not our love for each other defined as a perversion and sick?

Are we not a people who within the scope of our sexual practices scorned each and everyday by those who are “holy then thou” who say things like: “all they show on TV are the bad parts of the community, the drag queens, the leather people, the dykes with their exposed breasts, and all those strange people with wild hair color and body piercing and tattoos.”

Yes, it is you and I, sitting on the hillside and listening to the words of Jesus. We are the “who”!

Jesus is speaking to each and every one of us.

Jesus is in fact telling all those people (us), that we are the salt of the earth; we are the light of the world! We are right there for all to see. We are all there to experience a new day a new message.

Salt is a common commodity today and it is relatively inexpensive.

Yet at the time of Jesus it was very costly. In Rome a main road is named “via salaria” or the way of the salt. That name is said to have dated from ancient times when Roman solider could have been paid with salt.

Salt in those times and having access to it was the difference between life and death. Salt was preservative, it kept food from spoiling. It added flavor and zest to that which otherwise was ordinary. Salt gave its recipient character and integrity. Salt was not potential but rather reality.

When Jesus called those persons on the hillside that day “the salt of the Earth” he paid them a high compliment.

Jesus pays us today this same high compliment. We are a people who add a spice and a zest to life. By virtue of what and who we are then are preservative of life, that which gives flavor and zest to that which is otherwise ordinary.

Salt by its very nature gives to rather than extracts from. We as gay, lesbian, BI and transgender people actually give to our society rather than take from.

In being ourselves we give and contribute to the beauty of creation rather than take from. Just as salt adds and enhances everything that it touches, so do we.

We have added the beauty of incredible art, expressions of love, expressions of emotion not found anywhere else in our society. We add zest and flavor to life itself. We have even taught the world to die with dignity and grace.

Salt becomes apart of everything that it touches. Despite what some would have you believe… we are everywhere, and we are apart of everything.

We have touched, influenced, and participated in every part of creation. We are part of the fabric of culture and society. Written laws, massive beatings, or even killings cannot extract us. We are part the DNA of creation.

No biblical interpretation will cause us to go out of existence and I really think this is what gets under the religious zealots skin; they know we are here to stay.

Since we have penetrated life itself, our world is having new discussions around sexuality and what it means.

Our world is discovering new ways of looking at relationships, how the roles of men and women in relating to each other are important. How roles within a relationship can be redefined to include and meet the needs of both partners.

Because we have penetrated the world in which we live, there are new ways of defining modes of dress, architecture, honesty and integrity. Oh, yes, friends, we are giving to the world in which we live, not taking from it.

We are the “light of the world!” Jesus tells us to not hide who and what we are, rather let it shine so that all may see.

In other words we are not to be ashamed of who and what and hide under a basket fearful of discovery. Rather stand, as a bright light so that our world may see clearly that God created diversity, differences, and tolerance of this diversity and differences will bring about wholeness rather than brokenness.

Salt penetrates and preserves. Light brings sight and penetrates that which is dark.

We are those on that hillside.

The religious zealots should take note: “We are the salt of the earth”, we are the light of the world.” Nothing you do will change this.

In fact the more you try to remove us, the harder you try to get rid of us the brighter our light will shine and the more zest and spice we will add to this world.

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 https://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.