Posts Tagged ‘United States’

Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary, Albert...

Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary, Alberta. This is at the new location (as of 2006) of the hospital. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Coming to a small town near you!

This is the press release sent us, so feel free to follow up if you are in the Alberta Area! is Playin’ 4 Keeps, in support of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation!


With children and families as their inspiration, the Alberta Children’s Hospital is able to provide nation-leading expertise on many fronts, including Brain Health,     Childhood Cancer and Life-saving Care. Ultimately, their goal is to provide world-  class health care and enable the 82 thousand children who rely on the hospital     every year to be the first to benefit from new discoveries, treatments and cures.

How can you help Playin’ 4 Keeps?

Keep your eyes and ears open!

A specially designed, play house sized piggy bank, will be coming to your community!  Bring your spare change and  help fill this giant piggy bank.  Proceeds will help support the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation to ensure that  the children and families who rely on the hospital receive the best of care..

You can even enter to win the playhouse, once we get all those pennies out of it!

Playin’ 4 Keeps…watch for it in your community.

Proudly supported by Cabin, ACA Electric Ltd, and Countess Country Museum.


Wayne Ragan

President & Founder is available for comments at:

1-877-272-9886 or



The version of the flaming chalice currently u...

The version of the flaming chalice currently used as the logo of the Unitarian Universalist Association. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You tell us fine stories, and there is nothing in what you say that may not be true; but that is good for you who came across the seas. Do you not see that as we inhabit a world so different from yours; there may be another heave for us?

And another road to reach it?

-A Huron to a Jesuit Missionary, circa 1635


Church & Buehrens use the expression of One Light, Many windows; Matthew Fox (defrocked Dominican Priest) used the phraseology one river, many wells. But the quintessential answer is the same, there are many ways to access the One Source, the Sacred, the Creator, The Divine, The Love…

What needs to be answered for each of us in this new Global Village is which way do we access it? A traditional religion, a non-religion, a new age, new wave, science, philosophy, politics, just being… this is the core of Universalism, there is nothing wrong in the many manifestations that we see in this world the thrust being as the Dalai Lama has recently phrased his religion to be kindness, compassion, or Desmond Tutu in God is Not a Christian, it being love the foundation.

This is the journey I have been on, a journey that has been many years (decades) in the making. Where I have worn many labels of religiousity, yet each label is only one piece of the story. Much like the Huron to the Jesuit, what makes you think that your Western European Empiricism speaks to my experience of the sacred in daily life?

This is the thrust of the journey that during my sabbatical has taken me away from institutionalized Christianities and into a journey of discovery…at one juncture it actually had me labelled a heretic by a fundamentalist school, but what else can you say…for when one does not believe in Hell, or does not believe in a manmade God of misogyny, bloodlust, hatred and exclusion. Rather a belief shaped in the imminence of paradise here, our role in building it as co-creators with the Divine, much like Jesus of Nazareth. One where every aspect of life is Sacred, and within that is where Creator exists in us, and us in the Creator.

This journey of exploration that has led me to the Unitarian-Universalist Association…more colloquially into the Calgary Unitarian Church as an exploration with the family, to read many works of thought and recently to history works Hewett’s Unitarians in Canada (1975 & 1995) and Wilbur’s A History of Unitarianism Vol. 2 (1945 & 1965) which revealed a church that has organically grown since shortly after the Easter Moment, but became denomiantionalized within Transylvania during the             Reformation. It is a story of a people called out by the Spirit when the church becomes to doctrinally fixate that it divides and excludes, instead of sets the table widely for all of the children of the Holy Mystery. A story of beyond tolerance, to acceptance that individuals and communities experiences of the Holy will be different, and that is okay, in fact it is a wonderful time where these different ways can come together with the grounding focus being transformation. Could this be why UU is the fastest growing liberal church in North America? All the liberal theologians being tired of the doctrinal asinine that no longer or never should have separated us in the first place.

Read no further until you have checked out the short journey at:

This brings us to the reflection today, on Brock and Parker’s (2008) Saving Paradise which is an alternative history to the church we never knew. It is a challenging work that forces the reader to stare fully into the vacuum of darkness that the “church” has mired on this world.

What exactly are the Hebrew Bible prophecy books? Are they futuristic soothsayers? No, these are a people during a time of crisis simply attempting to process (p. 22). No great infallibility, just a story of survival and faith.  Texts that for the First Century CE believers then showed them ways to allegorically process the Roman Empire (for us today Materialism? Corporate rule?), especially when the rule of the Empire is then reflected back upon the same institutions that we hold “sacred”. For the whore of Babylon in Revelations is not an allegory to the Empire, but to those complicit in the oppressors and degradation of a people…the religious leaders of Israel (p.75), which upon reflection of main stream religion as stories of abuse, wars, genocides, scandals, thefts, lies, etc. in the “name of God” flood the media lines is it not an allegory we can use today?

One that was extended even within the Gospel writers metaphor, John Mark wrote of Jesus’ casting out of the demons of Legion (an Empire Allusion) to the pigs or the defiled depths (p.45) the fact that the Empire Gospel was being interpreted to destroy people, it was time for a new Gospel, one that empowered those without power. That was the Gospel of the peasant out of Nazareth that shook the world. For it is true that Gospels do not kill people (they are merely proclamations), but interpreters do (p.49). If one takes up the Gospel, they must accept that it is a sacred text and with that we must exercise our discernment and wisdom in accepting the power and responsibility that come with wielding words that we say come from the Sacred (p.49). Let us be honest, we have not done well, think of how many have been cast out of this world, destroyed emotionally, spiritually, physically, psychologically by the predators that have enlisted within “God’s Army”.

How far we have gone from the house that Jesus built, for his father’s house had many rooms. Did you know that the fixation on the Crucifixion did not happen until the 1000’s when the Great Schism ripped the Western church out of the Eastern Mysticism and it became more concerned with power, land, and money instead of mysticism, rebirth, and L-O-V-E. Why? The ancient church had us in one existence with many dimensions (one house, many rooms sound familiar), essentially multiple dimensions all united within The Spirit (p.88).

So if there was no Crucifixion fixation then what were earlier believers “converted into”? It really isn’t that hard to figure out, it was a counterculture movement. Baptism was more than simply a personal choice about one’s beliefs. It was a ritual that incorporated initiates into a community and its source of power. As such, it was inseparable from social and political degrees. (p.41). When one took the step of entering into the waters of baptism, it wasn’t a “out of hell free ticket”, it was entering into solidarity with those Jesus spoke of in the Beatitudes, the ones that society has cast out, and choosing to walk alongside and build a healthy community. This is what Jesus’ feeding of the masses was about, as the Emperor would feed the poor and lull them into thinking the only source of sustenance was destroyed when Jesus fed the masses and showed them the true source of all things necessary was not the Emperor, but truly ethical grace within the Holy Mystery (p.30).

Which leads John Crossan to say, “it is in food and drink, offered equally to everyone that the presence of God and Jesus is found” (p.31).

The meal shared (Eucharist) and the Baptism is truly the renunciation of Empire within one’s life, and joins a movement that drew on different well springs: wisdom, word, Torah and Spirit (p.41).  It is to be in the Spirit, to know how to distinguish good and evil required acute attunement to the present and reflection about ethical behaviours discerned through wisdom, live joyfully, enact justice, nonviolence and love (p.88).  If we seize on these values of the ancient tradition we are birthed into through water and Spirit, what comes evident for us is that we must tell the truth of crucifixion, an act of horror designed to shame, humiliate and destroy humanity.

This is the act of violence the Empire brought to bear on the peasant Messiah. It is up to us to tell the truth of this violence. To quit hiding behind theological treatise that make it okay for G-O-D to be a vengeful prick who must have seen his son beaten, bloodied, humiliated, killed for us to be loved (which spirals into its own theology of acceptance of violence and abuse). Brock and Parker on page 53 write:

To break silence whenever violence is used to shame, instill fear,

fragment human community, or suppress those who advocate for

justice is life-giving.

It is the foundation of ethical grace, to live into and out of the worst a community can experience, and speak truth. It is the power of Healing Circles, Truth and Reconciliation commissions, simple healthy community. It is the pragmatic/practical end of Panentheism. For the church is the Holy Mystery’s renewed paradise (p.89).

This is Theosis (communities that embody divine love) was a term used by both men and women, regardless of orientation, ability, gender, or societal labours were equals in all aspects of life to build the church (p.191). A church that experience Eucharist as a training of the whole person (body/soul/mind/strength) to know the world and spirit in it (p.145), “A Feast of Life” for the whole, and would/should include all the foods of the harvest (p.142).

Which is the source of offering that represented the community’s shared resources, its common wealth in the Holy Mystery (p.142).  It was not just a money thing, it was not just an anything, it was sharing of the blessedness of the whole person as a piece of the whole.

This piece of the whole, in an egalitarian world birthed another source of power. For women in a culture with no power, suddenly they discovered the source of power. That’s right, S-E-X. Just as Mary of Nazareth seized power of being-ness with her Yes to the Holy (for more of my research on this I direct you to: Yet it is in women in the ancient church first claiming their right to their virginity (bodies) that they are fully empowered (p.194). How we have abused and bastardized this in the church since, with our virgin/whore dichotomy and using both to strip power from women and make them once more nothing more than pawns of men (such an Empire move).

Another traipsing of us into the Empire’s bed is even our understanding of marriage. Do we realize that until the misogyny of medieval times, a Christian marriage was nothing more than a couple choosing to live together and declaring themselves wed? (p.195). Look at what we have done with something so beautiful in such a short span of time, how many lives we have destroyed, some even driven to the point of suicide over our own destructive use of “marriage” as a means of exclusion.

How do we realize inclusion? That is quite simply as noted earlier, in blessed community, where we are the agents, foster parents, OF LIFE that sustains communities within ethical grace (p.418). This sustaining that is rooted in, as Brock and Parker state of page 419:

The Eros of Beauty calls to us and bids us be fully in the world,

attentive to particularities, emotionally alive, open to grace,

and responsive to justice.

It is not about eroticism, or sex, it is about the actualization of the intimacy we have with the Holy, the beauty of the diversity of what builds creation. It is this love/intimacy that calls us to be within creation as its caretakers, fully active and engaged with our everything for this is how we will engage the Sacred, and the Sacred will dance within us…

This is where Paradise (or whatever term your reference gives) comes alive- –  here and now.

Are you prepared to be within the Eros of Beauty?


English: The Church of the Holy Spirit, Distington

English: The Church of the Holy Spirit, Distington (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


taxes (Photo credit: 401(K) 2012)

Now off the top of my head I do not know how many churches around the world actually have tax exemption, but I know in Canada a major selling point to congregants to give to churches is the “blessed” tax receipt at the year end.

What if all governments followed suit with Italy: and all the monies taken up in the taxing of the religious were directed towards such things as social programs, health care, and education… instead of lottery monies being used (or other sin taxes for social safety nets) it was the blessing tax?

How many churches would close their doors? Better question, how many neighbourhoods would miss those churches?

Can the governments do in a reformation, what the Holy Spirit has been unable to do and blow through a cleansing rejuvenation by truly seperating us from the state? (and while we’re at it, let us remove marriage powers under the power of the state from Clerics, and have clerics simply bless those civil marriages for members of their own congregations– but that may be another topic).

As we move into 2013, let me know what you think of this idea of non-profit or tax exempt status being removed from religious institutions and what would happen to the landscape of Canada if we were to follow Italy.


Divinity (Photo credit: Eye – the world through my I)

This was a tweet from Mark Harvorth @HardlyNormal  a travelling advocate for those without a place to lay their heads in North America.  It is also a true fact.

But let’s grow beyond the 140 characters to understand what Domestic Violence can be rooted in (please note this article is not exhaustive, my doctorates are in Holistic Psychology, Metaphysics, and Divinity, so please seek out other sources as well to grow your understanding so in 2013 we can eliminate this blight on our species).  During the holiday season isolation goes up, those struggling with mental illness goes up, those with addictions, and the social users goes through the roof. Unfortunately with our greedy materialism driven lives, financial cliffs become a leering reality for many families who over stretch their bank accounts and credit to ensure their kids and themselves keep up with their neighbours.

Also, in the US, Black Friday is break even, while in Canada it is usually Boxing Day that becomes break even for many retailers, which means that during this season for those in the retail sector this is high stress because one does not know if their store will exist post break even or not. As well, the rise of stress and usage of both legal and illegal substances in the party atmosphere lead to an increase in driving under the influence, and life crippling/ending accidents. Anecdotally, it appears that more aged relatives become hospitalized or pass away during the First Day of School-Thanksgiving-Halloween-Rememberance Day-Christmas links in the year than other times which casts society members ill equipped for interdependence in healing into grief cycles.

Are these excuses for beating the crud out of your loved ones? NO! Never read understanding rationale behind harm, as validating the harm as okay. What it means is being able to work within the setting to bring a reconciliation within the offender so they will not offend again, and bring a reconciliation within the victim so they understand that they are not the cause of said violence and they need to heal the wounds (seen/unseen) to be able to live a healthy life once more.

But the sad part here is that some (most?) reading this will be thinking of domestive violence as physical abuse, perpetrated by a Husband (or male partner) upon a wife (or female partner)…and that is only the visible tip of the ice berg that society is willing to accept. What follows is a short list of other forms of abuse that we endure within our domestic connections that one may not realize is abuse, but it is:

1) Same-sex partner abuse (male to male, female to female) or any configuration within a relationship that exists out of the LGBTTIQ communities.

2) Parent upon child

3) Child upon parent

4) Grandchild upon grandparent (vice-versa, and insert whichever generations you choose)

5) Between friends, roommates,

6) any familial relationship (aunt, uncle, mother, father, sibling, cousing, godparent, grandparent, cleric) upon another within that familial network.

These are all the relationships where domestic violence can exist (if I missed some please add to it within the comments section).

The forms it takes very obviously:

1) Physical – quite self explanatory that is inflicting bodily harm upon another.

2) Mental – degrading an individual to the point where you control them (much like Cults do) and they isolate themselves from healthy supports within their lives.

3) Addiction– whatever addiction is destroying your life, you then initiating the relative into the same behaviour, misery after all loves company.

4) Emotional – It is akin to mental, yet this is at the visceral level that makes us family (domestic units) and causes one to feel they have no value, and that how they are treated (which is usually worse than a mouse or other rodent) within their family unit is what they should seek in life.

5) Sexual – R-A-P-E or any form of sexual assault that happens by one in authority, through coercion, threat of violence, or partaking within another form of abuse. It can be petting, gropping, choking, BDSM, Manual stimulation, Anal, Vaginal, oral, bestiality…etc. but the key is that it is about power and control and it is wrong.

6) Spiritual – Where a member of the domestic unit uses the family’s spirituality/religion to control and subjugate others to their will. It becomes evident as abuse when one feels disempowered, isolated and must conform for fear of losing domestic connections. Sadly, some families of clerics fall into this trap where the cleric acts as religious and parent to the family and does not seperate the role; smaller and mega churches can also fall into this through a cult of personality. Most famous for of spiritual abuse through fear of ostracization is seen in how hte Jehovah Witnesses‘ deal with claims of abuse, or when one marries outside the faith or Bountiful, B.C..

7) Negligence – This is a catch all category that can be not providing the  means of simple living (food, clothing, shelter, connection with other human beings); isolation from the community at large to family with good hearts attempting to care for a relative when they are incapable of caring and too proud/scared/inept to access the resources available for the individual’s care.

8) Financial – We have all seen the television commercial against elder abuse that sees the grandchild or child taking money through threats or coercion from their loved one. But financial abuse can be so much more. It is misuse of funds, it is playing of the love the relative has for you when you are in need, it is stealing from them blatantly, it is living with the relative but having them pay for everything. There are so many ways when the domestic unit moves from a caring/shared partnership when multiple generations live together to when it becomes a targetted one individual is the cash cow so the others can not participate.

These are forms of abuse, this is obviously not the complete or exhaustive list because as a species humanity is constantly inventing new ways to hurt those that should be the most dear to us.

The challenge is to recognize if we fall into a lesser or major extent of these, if any of our loved ones do, then to seek out the appropriate help and support.

The ancients predicted 2013 would be a year when the way the world is would drastically become the way it was and a utopia would emerge, eliminating the ability of familial violence from this earth would definately be a miracle in the right direction.


CHRIST (Photo credit: Fergal of Claddagh)

We didn’t know how to take you
such persistance in wanting our story
in benevolence
others had sought it to harm
to injure
to cast out

Yet you were there.
Too close to the pain of the last attack

Not yet healed we were

willing to accept you were

wanting to understand us

How a family

with beliefs so contrary to the church’s

yet so open with home & love and faithfulness in Christ

could find a home— here

Yet we did

but we misunderstood

authentic yearning for inclusion

not experienced

saw it as another form of abuse


We are sorry

we will re-enter the doors

we pray a new welcome


as we are healing

yet we want family

and to finally rest in Christ,

in a family in fused through the love that is our living

Cosmic Christ…


The Lord's Prayer (1886-1896) from the series ...

The Lord’s Prayer (1886-1896) from the series The Life of Christ, Brooklyn Museum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A spiritual exercie for you to consider, spend time in a Lectio Divina with each of these Lord’s Prayer versions from Pilgrim Uniting Church in the City. Once you have completed this reflection in about 7 days (possibly more if you find other versions) and then spend time in reflection and through art or word craft your own Lord’s Prayer, how do you pray to your loving creator?

Lord’s Prayer


On occasions, the Lord’s Prayer may be used in communion, to conclude prayers of intercession etc. Other versions of the Lord’s Prayer may be considered for use, including from other cultures. As well, it may be said in language groups represented in the congregation.


Contemporary English version
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your Kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom,
the power and the glory are yours.
Now and for ever.



Central American Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who is in us here on earth,

holy is your name
in the hungry who share their bread and their song.

Your kingdom come,
a generous land where confidence and truth reign.

Let us do your will
being a cool breeze for those who sweat.

You are giving us our daily bread
when we manage to get back our lands and to get a fairer wage.

Forgive us for keeping silent in the face of injustice
and for burying our dreams.
Don’t let us fall into the temptation
of taking up the same arms as our enemy,
but deliver us from evil which disunites us.

And we shall have believed in humanity and in life
and we shall have known your kingdom
which is being built for ever and ever.
(Central American Lord’s Prayer, shortened)

Source: Dare to Dream: A Prayer & Worship Anthology from around the world, p.56


The Lord’s Prayer (New Zealand)
Eternal Spirit,
Earth-maker, Pain bearer, Life-giver,
Source of all that is and that shall be,
Father and Mother of us all,
Loving God, in whom is heaven:

The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world!
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom
sustain our hope and come on earth!
With the bread we need for today,
feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another,
forgive us.
In times of temptation and test,
strengthen us.
From trial too great to endure,
spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil,
free us.
For you reign in the glory of the power that is love,
now and forever. Amen.

Source: A New Zealand Prayer Book (Harper Collins, 1997), 181.


The’Abba‘ Prayer

Gracious Spirit,
Who loves us like a mother,
Whose realm is blooming among us now.
And within.


We pray that your compassion guide us in every action.
Give us what we need for each day,
and help us to be satisfied with the miracle of that alone.


Forgiver, whose embrace brings us to wholeness without our asking,
May we reconcile ourselves to one another in humility.
And may we cancel the crushing debts that imprison our neighbours
So that communities of joy and health may flourish.


May we neither profit from nor ignore evil.
But ever work to thwart it with non-violence
As we co-create the realm of peace in this world.
Now and each day.
Amen.  (Bret Hesla/wsj)








The Lord’s Prayer (The Message)


Our Father 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 what is evil.

You’re in charge!

You can do anything you want!

You’re ablaze in beauty!

Yes. Yes. Yes.


Source: The Message by Eugene H. Peterson (paraphrase of Matthew 6:9-13)


THE LORD’S PRAYER – an adaptation


Our Father in heaven, may Your name be kept

in reverence, honour and awe.

Let Your Reign come and Your will be done,

on earth as in heaven for all.


Feed us today with the food we need;

nourish, refresh us, we pray.

Forgive us our wrongdoings as we forgive

those who have wronged us along the way.


And as we go through hard-testing times

deliver us from Evil’s way.

For the Reign, the Power and Glory are Yours

today and forever always.  AMEN.


(Translated by Rev. John Maynard, April 2011.)


Sung versions of the Lord’s Prayer


1. Aboriginal Lord’s Prayer (All Together for Good 574)


You are our Father, You live in Heaven

We talk to You, Father, You are good. (repeat)


We believe Your Word, Father, we Your children.

Give us bread today.   (repeat)


We have done wrong, we are sorry.

Help us Father, not to sin again. (repeat)


Others have done wrong, to us

And we are sorry for them, Father today. (repeat)


Stop us from doing wrong, Father,

Save us all from the evil one.            (repeat)


You are our Father, You live in Heaven.

We talk to You, Father, You are good. (repeat)



The air carried the smell of the forest fires into the city.  If I had the time to fly out to fight the fires I would, but there are brave Albertans on the front line. I hover over top of the city, sometimes the power of flight is a good thing (not to mention the telekinesis that forms a quasi bullet proof shell around me), but unlike Superman I got not speed or sight powers just some extra strength. Jonny Power and the power isn’t even inherently within me, it is caused through a mystical medallion that seared itself into my chest.  A lineage of Power’s has existed, and when each dies the medallion finds a new host.

Three years ago I was chosen when the then Jonny Power was taken out in a Christmas Shopping mall mishap when Zombie Santa attacked, the explosion from the gas main took him out (he did not understand how to use the telekinesis shield).  As I explore through meditation the heroic lineage I was voluntold into I discover it is usually a 5 year tour then death, not exactly the life plan I want to sign up for.  Which led me to realize as with anything if one wants to succeed they need the right mentors, which is why I enlisted a life coach for super heroes (and yes there is such a thing, found it at if you will)?

Thus I float here scanning the city, about ten stories up for anything untoward. But then what can be classed as untoward in a  city that 3 years ago had a villain named Zombie Santa killing shopping mall Santa’s and elves? And unlike our neighbours to the north, we did not have to evacuate because of the encroaching smoke of the forest fires, but we are on alert.

My hip vibrates; thankfully the phone is hidden under the leather bomber jacket and black hoody.  Flip open the line. “Talk to me.” I know not a very classy opening, but really who calls the hero? Right I should probably disclose to you that whole secret identity thing and all that, but really I got a brainstorm when the medallion hit me… Put up a shingle and be a hero for hire. Surprisingly it works quite well.

“Jonny when you getting back to the office?”

“In a few Kara what’s up?”  Kara Vander, main squeeze, the organizer of my life and business. We have been together for five years (and yes that means my real first name was Jonny, quite funny eh?).

There is that sigh that more than likely went with a traditional eye roll for she knows what my time schedule is like. “Look we got something big that just came in over the wire,” she loves talking in the old newspaper jargon probably has to do with the journalism diploma she picked up, “we’re talking Santa Zombie, Killer Clown or that whacko floating leopard head big.” Okay listing off the three biggest threats my predecessor put down before his demise is definitely a way to get my interest.  Turn back and fly towards the office.

The haze is getting thicker, hope there isn’t an evacuation order because that would be a supreme gong show. Land outside the old five room church building, where the sign that used to scream St. Basil the Great United…is replaced with the office sign of Jonny Power Hire a Hero. Excellent find in this economy for purchase, the church had reached the end of its life cycle so offloaded cheap on the bankruptcy market. We were able to convert the sanctuary to a living room/rec room, the old Sunday school area and kitchen into our master suite, kitchen and full shower while maintaining the front church office and the minister’s office as our work area. Multi-purpose and being able to claim working from home as a deduction since the whole building functions for what we need. Kara teaches Yoga at lunch hour out of the rec area for some extra coin, and we hold meditation each night, movie nights, a youth drop in time and at some point I should probably put my theological training to good use and offer a bible study or something, but I am really questioning this whole God thing.

Walk through the oak double doors, the meditation time is already in session so as not to disturb i side step into the clerical office. Kara is in the comfy leather couch we put in for the waiting area. “I’m back what’s up?” She head bobs to the door of my office. It is filled by the dwarf.  Okay filled is an exaggeration on my part, but the form of K (which is all my super hero life coach goes by) is made bigger by his personality.  K is always dressed in a pristine pressed 3 piece black pin stripe suit with a white French cut shirt, his but length hair is braided, and he has two hoops in his ears. His husband Mark says that their biggest expense isn’t the mortgage it’s K’s wardrobe.

“It is show time youngling.” Show time, because the past three years of stopping criminals, fighting super baddies and mad scientist monsters has been a walk in the park? My face must betray what my mind is processing because K cuts a grin. `The past three years have been training now it is time.“ K shows me his Android and plays the video of the forest fire fighters, but something is emerging from the smoke claws are slashing fire is flying.

`Fuck me it`s a dragon. “

`Very possibly, but that`s where you need to be. The hero that does pro bono to save a province by slaying a dragon, it`s like the legend of St. George or something.“  Or something is right. Where in the super hero job description does it say that one must slay dragons?

Deep breaths, set aside the normal human fear of fire, set aside the fact that I am not Superman or completely invulnerable. Set aside the fact that yes I can fly quicker, but it is still going to be a few hours to make it out to the fire line. How does one exactly beat a dragon?

Kara is looking a bit perplexed, “okay gents keep it down, we have 12 folks in their trying to discover inner peace and our resident super hero looks like he’s going to drop a load in his tights.”

“Hey I do not wear tights.” That is correct I buy my jeans from Army an Navy for 10 bucks a pair, cause hey they just get shredded anyways. She smiles at me and blows a little pixie kiss, her way of calling me a whiner.

Move on in and watch your world change:

Gil Tucker tours Missional Housing on Global TV Newshour: Here

Religious Institute

Summer 2012 Newsletter

From the President

When I tell people what I do for a living, sometimes people respond by saying, “Wow, you work on the most controversial issues of our time.”  People use phrases like “hot button issues” and “wedge issues” to describe the movements for full inclusion of LGBT people, marriage equality, and recently, contraceptive coverage.

Except these issues aren’t really controversial to most.  At July’s London Summit on Family Planning, sponsored by the Gates Foundation and the British Government, donor governments and foundations promised to provide an additional $4.6 billion so that an additional 120 million women can receive family planning services.  The vast majority of people in the U.S., including women of all faiths, use and support contraception.  The trumped up Fortnight to Freedom campaign by the U.S. Catholic Bishops tried to make contraception a controversial public policy issue failed to garner much public attention, especially as compared to the U.S. Nuns on the Bus campaign against proposed draconian budget cuts.

Last month’s 19th International AIDS Conference demonstrated that those with significant political differences can find common ground on hopes of ending the AIDS epidemic. This event brought together scientists, activists, medical professionals and politicians, all working to create an AIDS-free generation. Many noted the extraordinary scientific gains made since the conference was last held in the United States, over two decades ago. What was once unmentionable is now being targeted for eradication by a broad coalition of people, nations and organizations, all working together. Sometimes, we can find common ground, even on sexuality issues.

The American public is also increasingly in favor of LGBT rights.  Recent polls show that the majority of Americans now support marriage equality, and more than three quarters support legislation protecting lesbian and gay people from employment discrimination. We also have seen incremental progress coming out of the summer meetings of various religious denominations—more on that is covered in the newsletter below. It is indeed shameful that the Boy Scouts of America just reaffirmed its position against openly gay Boy Scouts or Boy Scout leaders, at a time when the vast majority of young people the ages of those engaged in those programs support gay rights. The Democratic National Convention has even included marriage equality as a plank in its platform. There simply is no justification for discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity—and most Americans agree.

We need to actively resist those who would marginalize issues of sexual justice by labeling them as “too hot to handle.”  One can only hope that the platform committees of both parties are listening.

Take Action!

One Billion Rising
V-Day, a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls, is inviting one billion people to walk out, dance, rise up, and demand an end to this violence on February 14, 2013, V-day’s 15th anniversary. One Billion Rising is intended to activate women and men across every country, demonstrating collective strength and solidarity across borders and protesting violence against women and girls. The Religious Institute is proud to be a co-sponsor. Join us!
Learn more and take action here . . .

Make April 10th National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day
Young activists have called on President Obama to recognize April 10th each year as National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day. This action would empower youth activists, government agencies, and the HIV and AIDS community to mobilize young people and their communities towards creating an AIDS-free generation.
Learn more and take action here . . .

Summer Denominational Update

Episcopal Meeting Brings Same-Sex Blessing Rites Among Other Sexuality Issues

The 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, held July 5-12, 2012, resulted in many resolutions on sexual justice issues, including HIV/AIDS, same-sex marriage, abortion, sexual ethics, transgender clergy and laity, and many more.
See the new Episcopal statements on sexuality issues here . . .
Read a firsthand account of these debates and resulting statements here . . .

Methodists Approve Sexual Ethics as Integral Part of Formation for Ministerial Leadership, But Remain Divided on LGBT Issues
Many sexuality issues were debated at the 2012 United Methodist Church General Conference, held April 24-May 4, 2012, notably including adopting a rigorous program of ministerial readiness regarding professional ethics, sexual ethics, healthy boundaries and self-care as a standard aspect of clergy education, with reference to Religious Institute research in the resolution language.
Read more . . .
The denomination also voted to retain language calling homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching” and to sanction only marriage for heterosexual couples.
Read more . . .

Presbyterians Debates Marriage, Ultimately 
The 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), held June 30-July 7, 2012, debated two different ways to include committed same-sex couples in their understanding of marriage, but both were ultimately defeated. Overture 13-04 would amend the Directory of Worship to change the characterization of marriage from a “man and a woman” to “two persons” but was defeated 308-338-2. The second overture would have issued an authoritative interpretation permitting ministers residing in states where marriage between same-sex couples is already legal to preside at same-sex wedding ceremonies, but it was defeated 24-26. The General Assembly did approve legislation to study the meaning of Christian marriage.
Read more . . .

Reformed Church in America Affirms Its Stance on Homosexuality
The Reformed Church in America General Synod, held June 21-26, 2012, affirmed a position that homosexual behavior is a sin according to Scripture, following more than three hours of debate. The RCA also called for the creation of a committee to study practical ways to ”move forward” on sexuality issues without changing the RCA’s official position.
Read more . . .

Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly Selects Reproductive Justice as its Next Congregational Study/Action Issue
Over the next four years, UUA congregations across the country will study, reflect, and act upon issues of reproductive justice as part of a denomination-wide Congregational Study/Action Issue, as a result of a vote of the UUA General Assembly, held June 20-24, 2012.
Read more here . . .

UUA Passing Study on Code of Conduct
The Unitarian Universalist Ministry Association voted at its annual meeting to study a revision to its code of conduct related to sexual misconduct. Religious Institute President Rev. Debra Haffner prepared the study guide that will be used.

Tracking Denominational Statements on Sexual Justice
The Religious Institute has just updated its Denominational Statements database. This resource has been created for those seeking up-to-date information about the official positions of major U.S. religious denominations on sexuality-related issues, and includes statements from 28 denominations covering official positions on marriage, gender identity, abortion, sexuality education and many more issues. Newly updated statements reflect The United Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church 2012 stances, with other denominational stances being added and updated regularly. Access this resource here.

New Resources
benefits of contraception in the USBenefit of Contraceptive Use in the United States
This new video by The Guttmacher Institute presents factual information about U.S. contraceptive use and its benefits.
See the full video here
Read the fact sheet here

Making Love JustMaking Love Just
The modern understanding of sexual sin is about the misuse of power and exploitation of vulnerability, not just sex itself. It’s time to redraw the ethical map—but how should a contemporary Christian ethic of sexuality be formulated? This book uses provocative questions to increase readers’ skills and confidence for engaging in ethical deliberation about sexuality, building personal clarity and a mindful approach to relationships, and participation in respectful moral debate. Religious Institute President Rev. Debra Haffner calls this book “A helpful guide for the theologian, seminarian, and person of faith who is seeking to understand and integrate a truly redemptive Christian ethic of sexuality.”
Read more here . . .

A Guide to the Supreme Court’s Affordable Care Act Decision
This new policy brief from the Kaiser Family Foundation explains the key issues in the Supreme Court’s recent ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act, and looks ahead to the implementation of health reform now that questions about the constitutionality of the law have been resolved.
Read more here . . .

newlywed's guideThe Newlywed’s Guide to Physical Intimacy
This easy-to-read guide can help Conservative or Orthodox chassan (grooms) and kallah (brides) to navigate questions around marital sexuality issues. It is written in clear and descriptive language suitable for teachers, rabbis, and Jewish couples with questions about sexuality.
Read more here . . .

Rainbow BridgesRainbow Bridges
Rainbow Bridges, a 48-page guide developed in a pilot project to resettle LGBT refugees in San Francisco, offers practical step-by-step guidance on welcoming LGBT refugees fleeing persecution in their home countries. It offers guidance to ensuring their mental and physical well-being, helping them find support in their new communities, and outlines the avenues for refugees to receive housing, employment, and federal assistance.
Download Rainbow Bridges here . . . 

Faithful Voices Network

Faithful Voices Network
by Marie Alford-Harkey, MDiv
Director of Education and Training

From July 2-10, I attended The Episcopal Church General Convention as an exhibitor for the Religious Institute and as an alternate lay deputy for the Diocese of Connecticut.

Episcopalians made some very important statements this year. The Episcopal Church now has a provisional rite for the blessing of same-sex relationships. Because Episcopalians work out our theology through our practice of worship, this is a very large accomplishment. We also passed resolutions guaranteeing access to lay and ordained ministry to transgender persons. And we passed a resolution to “urge members of the U.S. Congress to repeal federal laws that have a discriminatory effect on same-gender civilly married couples…”

Kori Pacyniak and Zena Link
It’s been a tumultuous stretch for Episcopalians since the election and consecration of the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. Because Bishop Robinson was the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, his election stirred up controversy over issues of sexuality and faith that had been brewing more quietly in the years prior. (Pictured at left: Kori Pacyniak and Zena Link, Episcopal Prophets for Sexual Justice).

What was refreshing at General Convention 2012 was the lack of controversy. The transgender inclusion resolutions passed with very little discussion and few dissenting voices. The liturgy entitled “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant” and its supporting materials garnered much commentary in a public committee hearing, but most of the opposition was organized from 3 dioceses. The support, on the other hand, was broad, deep, and passionate.

The Right Rev. Bishop James E. CurryDespite media attempts to portray it differently, the story at Episcopal General Convention 2012 was the gentle movement of the Holy Spirit. Episcopalians, it seems, are mostly ready to settle the question of who is included in God’s love, and move on to figure out how to participate in God’s mission of reconciliation, restoration, and healing the world. The attitude of deep listening that I observed did not develop overnight, however. It’s taken almost 40 years of prayer, education, courageous witness, and activism on the part of LGBT Episcopalians and our allies.  (Pictured at right: Bishop James E. Curry in the Religious Institute booth).

At the Religious Institute, we’re working to change the public conversation around religion and sexuality. We do this through education, activism, and advocacy, and we know that even though our progress can seem incremental at times, it is working. It is important for people of faith to present a voice to counter the voices of exclusion. We can’t underestimate the power of faithful voices joined together for justice. Thank you for staying involved.

Religious Institute News

Religious Institute 501c3The Religious Institute Receives Formal IRS Recognition
The Religious Institute has received official IRS recognition, and is now an independent 501c3 nonprofit organization. Thank you for your support during our reorganization and rebirth—with your help, we look forward to many more years of advocating for sexual and reproductive justice in faith communities.

Thanks to our Summer Assistants!
The Religious Institute welcomes Ben Herrington-Gilmore, who will be an Intern with us for the next several months. He joins us from Occidental College, where he majored in Diplomacy and World Affairs. The Religious Institute would also like to thank Alexa Sullivan for her invaluable work this summer as our interim Administrative Assistant, and wishes her well as she returns to Mount Holyoke College.

5500 Religious Leaders and Counting
This summer, the number of clergy and religious leaders who have joined the Religious Institute’s network has passed the 5500 mark. We are grateful to have your as partners in the movement for sexual justice in faith communities—thank you!

Thank You For Your Support!
The Religious Institute would like to thank The Mary Wohlford Foundation for their recent new grant award. We are grateful for their contributions to our shared work.

Religious Institute on the Road

  • August 12, 2012, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Simsbury, CT
    Director Marie Alford-Harkey will be preaching at 9am.
    Read more information here.
  • August 19, 2012, St. Mark’s Episcopal Chapel in Storrs, CT
    Director Marie Alford-Harkey will be preaching at 7:45 and 10 am.
    Read more information here.

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English: Shield of the US Episcopal Church, co...

English: Shield of the US Episcopal Church, colors from The shield was adopted in 1940. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My only thoughts for my brothers and sisters in the Episcopal Church is: God bless you and keep drawing the circle wide. May other faith communities follow suit.