Tag Archives: Theology

A FOLLOWER OF JESUS

Sometimes I really don’t get why I would continue to call myself a Christian. While the last couple of weeks have not been the worst of times for the institution of Christianity it has not been anything to write home about either.

First, you get the wacko’s of a mega church in Texas refusing to do the funeral of a man after they found out he was in a loving same gender relationship. They tried to hide behind church policy about homosexuality, that some how if they did this mans funeral it might look like they are supportive of the “homosexual agenda” by accepting this persons relationship. To make matters worse they tried to justify their actions by saying they were willing to pay to have the funeral done someplace else and the family could have the food that had been prepared.

What happen to the church practicing common decency and hospitality?

Then if you are a reader of the “Questing Parson” the other day you find a story of a mega church in Woodstock Georgia refusing to help a man and his family who had been burned out of their home. Why you ask? Well let’s see he has three kids and a woman he loves but has not married and as their representative said; “We don’t subsidize immorality, and dismissed the man.”

Then I read from the Rev. Eugene H. Peterson, who is a “Professor Emeritus” of Spiritual Theology at Regent College in Vancouver B.C. He is the author of the newest translation of the Bible called “The Message”, the Bible in contemporary language. In his introduction to the Old Testament book of Amos he writes;

“More people are exploited and abused in the cause of religion then in any other way. Sex, money and power all take a back seat to religion as a source of evil. Religion is the most dangerous energy source known to humankind. The moment a person (or government or religion or organization is convinced that god is either ordering or sanctioning a cause or project, anything goes. The history worldwide of religion fueled hate, killing, and oppression is staggering.”

Wow! Read that again. No wonder churches are more empty then full.

Then I found myself channel surfing the TV the other day when I came across a TV preacher in “full preaching mode” declaring that for those who choose to go against God will pay the price of God’s harsh judgment. God will punish those who live in a homosexual life style and God will destroy and bring destruction to the society that does not “fear” the Lord and eradicate this horrible sin against God.

Now I have to tell you, it was this preacher’s use of the word “fear” that caught my attention.

Fred Phelps out of Topeka, Kansas whole ministry and picketing is based on this rubbish.

Jimmy Swaggert built a religious empire based on this crap and oh yea let us not forget Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson are always saying we were getting God’s wrath because we somehow misbehaved. Everything from hurricanes to terrorist attacks. These people have gotten filthy rich off people’s fear of God.

So let see if I have the formula of the “Church” correct…”lack of morality=a lack of fear from God, who will punish those who do not fear God.” In other words if we are fearful of punishment from God then we will behave. My friends this is really bad and dangerous theology. It makes a mockery of the Cross-and the whole teaching of Jesus.

Fear is a natural and normal event for human beings. Sigmund Freud has written at some point that we experience fear when we enter a field and see a large animal charging us; hence our well being is in real danger. Anxiety, is what we experience when we enter a field and we think that a large fierce animal may, perhaps be somewhere in the field and might; just might attack us. Natural fear is a positive thing, while anxiety is negative and many times harmful to our thinking and physical well being.

Positive fear is part of our instincts as human beings. If we are at risk for some reason, fear is indeed an emotion that will cause us to take action to protect ourselves. This is usually based on fact or real experience.

However, it strikes me this “fear the Lord” and the enforcement of morality being preached in churches and other religious groups is more about “negative anxiety” rather then genuine concern or fear of something factual or experiential.

“Negative anxiety” about what may happen after we die or even while we yet live is nothing more then a means by which evil people use to gain power and control of others.

Further this thinking gives those who are snobs, bigots and “power and control” freaks the ability to ignore the words of Jesus at every turn. It gives them an excuse to total ignore Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:31-40.

People who are anxious have a tendency to comply with “rules for living” when faced with what “might” happen. In fact they even send more money to the folks who are making pronouncements about “what may happen”. Need proof, watch the 700 Club for about 15 minutes. Better yet read Don Wildemon’s “American Family Association” newsletter, this dude has always got his hand out for money over what might happen.

Fear is the great motivator of war and killing…take a look at Iraq. We are giving away constitutional right after right because we have been convinced to fear somebody or anybody from the Middle East.

Has anyone come back from the dead, aside from Jesus, to tell us what there is after death?

We have all heard the stories and talk about “out of body experiences”.

However, I do not recall that any of them reporting an angry and punishing God…in fact it has usually been the exact opposite.

I heard a wonderful story concerning this very issue…I am not sure of the author or who to give credit to; but it is too good to not mention it here.

“There was a person visiting their minister and during the course of the conversation said to the pastor, “I am afraid to die, I have no idea what is there on the other side of life or what will meet me when I get there. Pastor, can you help me with this and tell me what to expect.” The minister look at his friend sadly and said, “No, I cannot tell you what it will be like after you die or how it will be.” The person was astounded, as they knew this pastor was a good solid praying Christian. So the person replied. “How can this be? How can you not know? You are a Christian and you can’t tell me what happens after one dies?” Just then there was a scratching at the office door and the doctor opened the door and in bounded his beloved dog. The dog was just all over the minister so happy to see its master. It was in this moment the minister looked at the patient and said, “You see how my dog just bounded into this room having no idea what was on the other side of the door, not fearing what was on the other side but only knowing that his master was here. I suspect that is the way it will be for us going to the other side of life with only one solid piece of knowledge…Our Master is there and waits to receive us.”

If someone is threatening you with eternal damnation and punishment then you are being bullied. If your preacher wants you to live in accordance to his/her moral pronouncements based on the judgments of God…then get out of that church as fast as you can, do not walk… run! The message of those who are followers of Christ is not “fear and anxiety, but rather the love of God.

The “Church” needs to wake up! I submit the agenda of the “church” must change! As my friend has quoted another source by saying, “The church is not in the business of enforcing morality, but in the business of extending grace.” Ah yes the words of Jesus:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Creator’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:1-3

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘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 22:36-40

I think this is why the Senior Deacon at our Church has it right when he says; “I no longer call myself a Christian, but rather a follower of Jesus.”

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/.

ALONE TIME

Last Saturday evening around 8:30pm we got a call at home from one of Bill’s sisters saying that our sister-in-law Sheila had passed away. This was the wife of Bill’s second oldest brother Allen. She had developed a brain tumor a few years back and this was the end of a long battle of her trying to keep control of her life. As the tumor grew and took over more of her brain, she found herself needing more and more help. She deeply resented not being able to do for herself and so was not a particularly good patient. So for me her passing was somewhat of a relief as she would no longer have to suffer or be in pain.

I should also mention this was the sister-in-law along with another sister of Bill’s who tried to make our life miserable because we were together. She and this other sister were the only ones out of the entire family who were not at Bill’s and my commitment ceremony (read wedding). She also stood in the way of me doing Bill’s Mom’s funeral even though that is what our Mom wanted. So again her passing was for us a relief, we know that she now knows the truth of our love.

Her feelings about homosexuality translated into great tension between Bill and her husband (Allen). So bad was the tension that at one point years ago at the funeral of Bill’s mom these two almost came to blows. While they kind of settled things…they did not keep in close contact except through other family members.

The weekend before I had been out of town doing my hobby, umpiring at a national ASA 18 and under slow pitch softball tournament in Columbus Georgia. I had been gone for 5 days and so this past weekend was to be spent trying to get caught up with chores, church and my husband. Then with that phone call everything changed.

First, just getting back into town…I could not turn around and go out of town again. My schedule between the church and umpiring was just too full. Second, I wasn’t all that excited about going to this particular funeral. Third, Cincinnati is a long drive when your vehicles are due for work in the shop. Further getting a flight on short notice was going to cost almost more money then major league baseball player makes. So you can imagine what it would cost for two.

Well Billy saw this as an opportunity to spend some time with the family and maybe even do a little renewing of a relationship with the widower. So there was just no doubt that he had to go. So I went to work on trying to get a flight. Long and short of it we got it done and put him on a jet this past Monday morning at 6:00am.

I got back to the house at about 6:20am, walked in the door and then WHAM!!!!!!!!!!! It hit me………I was alone in our house, ALONE.

Bill and I have been together for 25 plus years. Yes, I have traveled without him because of work mostly. Yet, neither one of us gave this much thought because Bill has always been a “homebody” and it was the best part of the trip coming home and finding him in my arms with a big smile, a huge kiss and in most cases some kind of great dessert to say he had missed me.

Even when we were separated for a short time a few years back, I never moved out and still saw him everyday.

So I have to tell you this was different…I walked in the dining room where there was a pair of his pants slung over a chair…but there was no one to bitch too about it. I walked into the kitchen…his kitchen, it is really his kitchen, I just pass through sometimes. Everything was ready to cook a meal but there was something missing…Bill

I went upstairs to go back to bed for a little more sleep, but the bed was suddenly just too big…no Bill draping himself over me and no 80 pound dogs, because they were at the front door waiting for “Daddy Bill” to come home.

I got up and went about my day…had to study for an umpire written test that night…but damn that wasn’t going well because I was not being interrupted ever 5 mins. or so with news of the neighborhood, gossip from Bill’s work or some ruling that Judge Judy had just made. There was no thundering from upstairs where Bill would be on his hands and knees playing the “pack leader” with the dogs…I was alone and not liking it one bit.

I got home that evening but there was no one there to tell that I thought I had aced the umpire test.

I sat down to watch my new favorite show “The Closer” but it was not nearly as interesting without Bill’s running commentary as to who actually did the crime. Then came my 2nd favorite show “Saving Grace”, but damn that was boring as I had no one to discuss the deep theological statements being made in the script. Nor was there anyone to discuss how hot some of those cowboys were and gee if were just young again.

I tried to get the dogs attention to play with them, but they were in the front room laying at the front door…watching, waiting, and looking for “Daddy Bill” to come home.

Now in our little world Bill normally comes home from work around 12:30am as he works second shift. Did I tell you we have a 15 year old Macaw who just thinks Bill is his Mother?

Well I had tried writing a blog but couldn’t stop wondering how things were going with Bill…I tried watching the news, but when I laid down on the couch I could smell him…his after shave, his hair…I could feel him rubbing my shoulders…I could see his deep brown eyes smiling at me, I could hear his soft voice telling me he loved me. ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT!!!! I can’t take this anymore I am going to bed…it is 12:30am

Have you ever heard a Macaw scream and work for attention? If not it sounds like someone is being murdered…it is loud and piercing and continual. I tried to give him some attention but he was having none of it…it was 12:30am and his mother was suppose to be there giving him peanuts. Then I remembered that when the lights go out he quiets down. So I went to that bed that was far too big and it started all over again, I could smell him, I could hear his laugh, I could feel him against me…the dogs, where are the dogs…oh yea at the front door waiting for “Daddy Bill” to come home. I am so alone.

Tuesday through today have been miserable…it is more then hot in Atlanta, the house is empty and I cannot get Bill out of my head. Last night I dreamed (I never dream of at least that I remember after waking up) of all the trips Bill and I have taken, my Mom was with us for some strange reason…humm… probably cause she likes him more then she likes me…but I woke up looking at the clock knowing that in a little over 12 hours I would be picking him up at the airport and I really started remembering how deeply I love him, how much I need him, remembering if it were not for him I would have left the ministry years ago…thinking how incredibly thankful I am to God for bringing this man into my life 25 years ago. Knowing beyond any doubt he is truly “the wind beneath my wings”!

Then I realized that Allen (Bill’s brother) was going through the exact same thing…his house was empty, in the kitchen were the tools where Shelia prepared their meals but nothing would be cooked this day, the laundry room had her cloths, the yard had her hand on the flowers that bloom in late summer, he can smell her on the pillow, he can see her smile as she plays with the grandkids, he can feel her holding him and telling him she loves him…he is alone, oh so alone.

My man, the one who has always been able to see into the soul of a person and know what to do to meet a need, saw and knew what his brother was going to be feeling and so he went to him to be with him.

He went to help Allen through his alone time, to remind him that despite everything, they are brothers, they are family. He went to hug him, hold him and remind him that he would always love him and to hold his hand in his time of great loss.

Billy is walking, talking proof of a loving God. He is so in touch with the Spirit of God that allows one to love unconditionally. He is so strong that he can see beyond the hurt sent his way and love anyway. This is the man I married, this is the man who chose to married me.

He chose to love me, to live with me in spite of me and to never give up on me even when I had given up on myself. Yes, I really am the luckiest man on the face of the earth. God has blessed me beyond all measure with this gift called Bill.

At 8:59pm tonight I am going to be busy telling the man I love how much I appreciate him, how much I need him and how much I love him. Yes, life in God is good!

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/.

COMING HOME

I stood in the emergency room of a local hospital with a young man who was barely 20, who was badly beaten and stabbed. He had been working the streets to get money for something to eat and a place to stay. He was on the streets because when his family found out he was gay based on all that he had learned in the church and heard from the preachers, he “just knew” they hated him and would cut off his schooling and throw him out…so he took his “stuff” and what cash he could find in his mother’s purse and father’s wallet and left for the big city.

Now prior to being on the streets for 3 months he was a handsome young man, long flowing black hair and a smile that would cause your heart to melt.

Yet, there was no smile at 4am this particular morning, and the long flowing hair was matted in his blood from where the knife had cut his face and ear. No this day there was only a look of agony, desperation, pain and anger.

Yet, the feelings were not aimed at the perpetrator of the beating, or his family, rather it was all aimed at God. In a horse whisper he told me to “go away, there was nothing I could do for him…God is punishing me, this was my fault for being a queer”! I had prayed to God for help, to change me but there was only silence. I went to a church in Midtown once, but was told I needed to clean up to attend service.” So with tears rolling down his blood stained face he cried, “I want to be with God but God sure as hell does not want me, won’t even talk to me.” “I want my parents, but they have no reason to want me.”

I was stunned, I needed to say something, anything to give this child of God some hope…“Oh God, do not be silent now give me something useful to say!”

I am thinking from a relationship standpoint God is never silent when it comes to dealing with us. I think it has more to do with whether we are paying attention or not. I also believe it has a lot to do with how we have been taught to view God. A God of law and judgment, or a God of mercy and reconciliation. A God who punishes and breaks relationship or a God who will do anything to be in relationship with us.

The only thing that came to me was Luke 15:11-32 (Read slowly and then continue with me)

You see when I get stuck for answers God seems to remind me of those things that Jesus taught, those things that remind us what God is really like. Most of my friends will tell you these times turn into sermons, this was no different.

The story you just read (Luke 15:11-32) and I shared with this young man was given by Jesus to help the listeners get an idea of what God was all about in relation to God’s people. Here is the loving and caring father image of God. The two sons are very representative of our world today especially when we speak of the GLBT community and the challenges we face.

We in the GLBT community can certainly relate to the younger brother…can we not? Living at home and over the years; beginning to figure out that we are different, that we are not fitting into the scheme of things.

Recognizing the values we are being taught somehow does not apply in the same way to us.

Recognizing that we can’t talk about it at home because it would cause such an up roar that we would have to leave or be thrown out.

Recognizing the standards that are being set before us for success and a good place in society are only a fantasy we will never achieve. Ah…. yes we of the GLBT community have indeed stood where this younger brother stood. We stand where this younger brother did recognizing we would never be acceptable to our Family or God for that matter.

So we begin to visualize what it would be like in a world where we are not held accountable because of who we are. We start to dream of having a life free from the burden of feeling like our love is an abomination to our Father.

We look out into the world and dream of another place; where we can be who we want to be, do as we wish and go where we want to go. So we go to our family and claim what is ours and set off on our own.

We are excited by the anticipation of a new city, new people, and new adventures. So we slip off into the night…maybe leaving a note, maybe having one last fight about how we are grown up and can fend for ourselves.

We might even have that last angry prayer with God where we say, “if I am going to hell then I will enjoy life and all that it has to offer first.” The church and all it hypocrisy now has no meaning for us, it doesn’t want us and we don’t need it. We will do it on our own, on our own terms. As Gloria once sang, “I will survive!”

Like the younger brother in Jesus’ story we arrive at that far away destination…we are free, at last free from all that entangled us at home. We claim a great job. We see a great celebration of life…the nightlife, the bars, the groups, the clubs. We see ourselves living with great prestige and wealth. We vision great romance and untold happiness.

Yet, wait…what is this? The only job we can find is for minimum wage and the cost of housing is far from our means. The night life is filled with danger…temptation…drugs, alcohol, robbery, smoked filled bars and police hassles for hanging around all the wrong places.

The idea of prestige and wealth has become only a distant memory of what we thought we could do. Our romance is filled with fake numbers, lies, abusive sex, drugs, phone sex, alcohol, cyber sex, bath houses, and ultimatly moving from one relationship to the next growing more bitter with each change of partner. We find ourselves not being able to maintain any kind of meaningful relationship, and now we are afraid.

Suddenly, it occurs to us that we are not free but in the deep agony of fear. We are alone.

What friends we have made are killed, dying or moving away. We are alone.

We lose the only decent job we had because they “don’t like faggots here.” We are alone.

With no way to pay the rent we borrow money or maybe even sell ourselves, or worse yet start selling things that will cause us to end up in a far worse situation then the street. We are alone and afraid. Or as this young man for whom I write, end up in the emergency room fighting for our life.

It occurs to us God seems far away and angry with us. If we could just tell God we’re sorry, if God would just help us. Yet we are apart of the hated GLBT community and God will never accept us back, much less help us. Did not the church say to us; “You have no place in the Kingdom!”

As Jesus is telling the story, the younger brother decides to go back home because even the slaves were better off then he is. Remember Jesus is telling us this story to give us a picture of what God is like, how God reacts to God’s people. It is not about a dramatic change other then the younger brother deciding to come home. If you will, come back to God.

Remember the first time you thought about being out and proud? Remember how you weren’t sure if this was right… you weren’t sure you were good enough? Look we had kicked God out of our lives, quite praying and stopped loving. “The church was right all along… “look at my life now” kinds of stuff.

Yet we miss the most important words of the story, “while still a long ways off the father (God) ran to greet and embrace his son.” (us).

Jesus is saying to all of us, the time away makes no difference, the wild and crazy times do not count, nor do the empty pockets. What matters is that we are coming home. God has been watching for us and is racing to us, to assure us we are welcome even while we are still yet a long ways off. Yes, we may be afraid, we may be weary, we may be heavy burdened, but God comes to us, embraces us and calls for a celebration.

Well, Jose (not his real name) let me pray with him (that’s what you do after a sermon) and when we finished the nurse was standing there with a message from his Dad, which said, “We are on the way to the hospital, your Mother and I will be there in about 4 hours.” “Hang on, I love you.”

At 5:30am I stood at my truck in the parking garage and cried like a baby after hearing the voice of God to one very lonely, scared and hurting gay man… “Hang on I love you.”

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/.

TGIF

Well Friday is here and I am looking forward to a peacful drive home, snuggling up on the couch with my man…watch the Braves play some baseball and read a good book.

Not much to say today so I thought I would leave something to read and mediatate on during those quiet times this weekend (it’s the pastor in me!): And Jesus said:

“Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding. “When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure—’playactors’ I call them— treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.
Pray with Simplicity
“And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat?

“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.

“The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this:

Our Creator in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best— as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.

“In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part. Matthew 6:1-15 (The Message)

See y’all Sunday!

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/.

“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/.

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/.