Religion

Must Our Church Accept All People

Many churches, both local and denominational, refuse to accept that some people are worthy of worshiping with them. Some even go so far as to use portions of the Bible to justify this discrimination.

I must assume that those people are reading a different book than I do. My Holy Bible speaks of love and inclusion, not hatred and exclusivity. The most well-known verse in the Bible is John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." There is nothing in these words that excludes those who are different. It doesn’t say just males, just clergy, just members of a certain denomination, just the "right" people, or even people of a particular sexual or gender orientation. It says anyone who is willing to accept the supreme sacrifice that He made for us will be saved.

LTSP Entrance Essay

Family Background and Significant Events

The lack of religious focus in my family of origin and my gender identity issues would often predict one's rejection of God, yet I consistently found myself being drawn back to the church.

From an early age I sensed that I was different from other kids. At an age when girls were supposed to be "icky" and had "cooties," I was far more comfortable with girls than boys. Being transgender pitted me against all the authority figures in my life, especially my parents.

Being born into a military family, we moved a lot. Church never seemed to be a priority in our family, except to me. When we moved to South Carolina, there was a church halfway down the block. I wasn't aware of differences in denominations when I entered the Southern Baptist church on my own. I was so proud when I earned my nine month perfect attendance pin for Sunday School.

Road to Emmaus

Luke 24:13-35 (Year A)

When you start paying attention, the Lectionary that we use is pretty interesting. We are now at Easter plus two weeks. Last week the lesson was Thomas' encounter with the risen Jesus which was eight days after Easter, so one day ahead of where we were. Today's lesson takes place back on Easter, two weeks ago. So close your eyes and take a deep breath. Whoosh! It's Easter Sunday again (does that mean we can sing "Jesus Christ is Risen Today" again).

The Transfiguration

Matthew 17:1-9 (Year A)

Every year, on the last Sunday before Lent, we take a break from our march through the gospel to experience again the event called the Transfiguration. But there is a small problem with this diversion: we come to this story without having seen the events leading up to it.

In the Christian tradition, we hold that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. While Jesus was in flesh form, Jesus disregarded his divinity (Phil 2:6-7). Knowledge of divine fact came through the Spirit, with all the same limitations we mortals have.

In the early part of the first gospel, we see Jesus acting like a garden-variety messiah (there were others who claimed that title). But beginning with the great parables of the 13th chapter, we see a Jesus who is beginning to realize what his role as a Messiah really means both to himself and to his disciples.

Advent Feelings

At this time of the year, it is hard to find joy outside the coming of the Word Incarnate. It is all too easy to dwell on the pains of Christmas Past and focus on the loneliness of Christmas Present alone. So I suppose that it is some comfort that I realize that my growth in matters spiritual has been enhanced by that very loneliness.

In the monastic ideals, one devotes oneself to prayer and study of the scriptures, with a celibate lifestyle to aid those endeavors. For me, celibacy is not a choice; it simply is a fact of my life. Don’t get me wrong: in many ways I appreciate it. Certainly it gives me more time to study and pray – and fewer distractions from that.

Also in the monastic life, work is simply a means to provide for oneself and the community. I seem to have evolved into a similar pattern. I work, but look forward to coming home, where I often study. Prayer is a constant companion, even during work.

One in Christ

In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:26-29, NRSV)

Paul has abruptly changed to the second person plural to show that his readers should take personally the following verses. The apostle takes the honorific phrase, "sons (children) of God," from the Jews who would only get this title at the Last Judgment directly from God, and bestows this status on Gentiles who believe now.

Promise and Law

This is my paper for my first seminary class, "New Testament Foundations" at Andover Newton Theological School.

Passage: Galatians 3:15-29

Introduction

It is not uncommon for Christians to turn to the Law (Torah) when they disagree with someone's actions or lifestyle. Paul reminds us of the promise made in God's covenant with Abraham and declares that the coming of the Mosaic Law did not modify that covenant. Paul shows that the Law is inferior to, and not a substitute for, the promise, but reveals sin and leads to Christ. He then declares that Christ's death frees us from the Law and its works, making all equal in the promise. In doing this, Paul declares that mature Christians should not be using the Law as a club to normalize behavior.

Candidacy Interview Questions

During my entrance interview with the Candidacy Committee I was asked a couple of questions for which I should have been better prepared. The questions below could easily be part of my witness in the future and a coherent answer is called for.

Tell us about your baptism

This question arises because I was baptized a year and a half ago, as an adult, at the church that endorsed my beginning the candidacy process. The committee may not see many people who actually remember their baptism.

Candidacy Essay

Being transsexual and having lived in both genders gives me an understanding of human nature that few have. Having been the target of hatred in the name of God, and overcoming it, gives me both the knowledge and the desire to minister to the disenfranchised, perhaps even showing, by example, that outcasts can come home. A desire to help believers mature in Christ also compels me to consider some sort of educational efforts. As a certified project manager and professional web developer, I also bring knowledge of technical subjects.

From as early as I can remember, I knew I was different from other kids. I didn't have much interest in the things boys did; I was more interested in what the other girls did. Making friends with girls was much easier than with boys. It took many years before I realized I was not alone in being transgender. In the meantime, I tried hard to dismiss it.

Welcoming is Not Enough

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. (II Cor. 5:18-19, NIV)

Pastor Nancy Kraft wrote of events in her church describing its journey to being a "welcoming" church. She describes welcoming as the first step, that of tolerance. Tolerance eventually morphs, she informs us, into acceptance. That is a notable transformation in itself.

That's not the end, however. Her church then moved into "wanting;" that is that those who were tolerated and then accepted are then elected to active participation in the congregation.

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