Todd Akin's recent comments about rape were reprehensible - and so is the GOP platform, modeled after legislation put forth by Akin and Paul Ryan that would ban all abortions...even in the case of rape - but it is clear that Akin isn't alone.
I'm not a doctor. But I do know that it can be difficult for a woman to conceive in a stressful situation. And so I actually think that a woman conceiving during rape is so completely rare that, I mean, it almost doesn't happen.
Yep, she's not a doctor. That much is clear.
Dr. Dean G. Kilpatrick is. He's a professor and doctor at the Medical University of South Carolina (where my mother attended) and author of a "a 1996 study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, which estimated that more than 32,000 women experience a rape-related pregnancy each year."
Figures provided by the FBI only count rapes that were reported to police - Kilpatrick says his research shows that at least 80 percent of all rapes go unreported - and they don’t take into account rapes in which the victim was intoxicated or otherwise unable to give consent. Until earlier this year, the FBI defined forcible rape as "the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will."
Whereas, women and men must make decisions about unplanned or unwanted pregnancies that involve their physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being; and …Whereas, abortion is a social justice issue, both for parents dealing with pregnancy and parenting under highly stressed circumstances, as well as for our society as a whole; …
Therefore, be it resolved, that the Sixteenth General Synod:
affirms the sacredness of all life, and the need to protect and defend human life in particular;
encourages persons facing unplanned pregnancies to consider giving birth and parenting the child, or releasing the child for adoption, before abortion;
upholds the right of men and women to have access to adequately funded family planning services, and to safe, legal abortions as one option among others;
urges the United Church of Christ, at all levels, to provide educational resources and programs to persons, especially young persons, to help reduce the incidence of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies, and to encourage responsible approaches to sexual behavior.
Summer is wedding season and while I'm not overwhelmed with wedding requests I've had a few and there is one that I'm really looking forward to in September. Weddings are, of course, special events. At their best, weddings bring not just two people together but families and even communities in a union bonded together in love. There is a simple joy in all that - even if the reality is that marriage itself is complex and sometimes difficult, just ask anyone who has been married longer than an hour. As we reflect on our reading from Scripture this morning, I want to discuss marriage a bit with you as we understand it in Christian terms, what marriage means as a legal institution, and to share with you some decisions that I have made about my role as a minister as it relates to marriage that have been helped along by my doctoral studies on this issue.
Let me begin by noting the reality that within the United States it is illegal for a minister or any other officiant to marry a gay or lesbian couple, much as it was illegal a generation ago to marry interracial couples. Oregonians voted to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman in 2004 - it is part of our state Constitution - thus banning marriage equality. This state Constitutional amendment plus the federal Defense of Marriage Act will both have to be overturned for gays and lesbians to receive true marriage equality. Federal law does not recognize gay marriages that are legal in states such as New York.
As a minister, I am asked to be an agent of the state when it comes to marriage. One way for a marriage to become legal is for an ordained minister to sign a marriage certificate. The United Church of Christ and the Episcopal Church USA are the only two mainline Christian denominations to support marriage equality, and that allow their clergy to perform such ceremonies. However, my religious freedom to provide pastoral care to gay and lesbian couples is curtailed by the government which says that I cannot legally marry same-gender couples - thus denying these parishioners the same care I can provide to straight couples. It does not seem the proper function of the government to tell me as a minister whom I can and cannot provide pastoral care to. That should be a decision of the church. The United Methodist Church, of course, forbids not just gay marriages but commitment ceremonies that the General Assembly of the church has deemed incompatible with Christianity. I look forward with great anticipation to the day this deeply flawed policy of this faithful denomination is overturned.
...we come together in the presence of God to witness the marriage of the couple￼, to surround them with our prayers, and to share in their joy. The scriptures teach us that the bond and covenant of marriage is a gift of God, a holy mystery in which two become one flesh, an image of the union of Christ and the church. As the couple give themselves to each other, we remember that at Cana in Galilee our Savior Jesus Christ made the wedding feast a sign of God's reign of love. (So we pray that we) enter into (the wedding) celebration confident that through the Holy Spirit, Christ is present with us... We pray that (the) couple may fulfill God's purpose for the whole of their lives.
It is this idea of covenant that is so central, so important to marriage and there is no Biblical reason the marriage covenant should not be available to gay or lesbian couples.
Last fall, as I was taking a course in Biblical theology at Chicago Theological Seminary for my doctoral degree program, I wrote a piece for The Huffington Post about Chick-fil-A and their opposition to marriage equality. I note this mostly to brag that I wrote about this issue nearly a year before most anyone else was talking about it. ☺
I said then and I'll say now that I love Chick-fil-A. Their plain old chicken sandwich and a sweet tea can send me to heaven. I've always known they were owned by a Christian family and, frankly, I like that they close on Sundays. I'm old enough to remember when more stores did (of course, that often was enforced by law) and I think a (voluntary) day off from shopping and commercialism isn't a bad thing. But I was sad to hear then that the company had donated food to an anti-gay marriage group. Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy said the contribution was made because the company believes in a "Biblical definition of marriage." Mr. Cathy has since become even more vocal in his opposition to marriage equality.
What I suggested in my piece in The Huffington Post was that Mr. Cathy ought to read Unprotected Texts: The Bible's Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire, a book from Boston University's Jennifer Wright Knust. This American Baptist pastor and scholar notes that: "When it comes to marriage, biblical laws are almost entirely contradictory." In short, the one "Biblical definition of marriage" that Chick-fil-A wants to promote doesn't exist.
I'm guessing Mr. Cathy never took my advice.
As I've preached, how we read the Bible matters. It is not to be taken literally. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, argued that Christian faith required one to bring Scripture, reason, experience and tradition to the table when trying to discern the will of God. Chick-fil-A is offering fast-food theology to a world that needs more than a bumper sticker understanding of the divine.
In a post for The Washington Post's "On Faith" blog, Knust wrote:
If we do take the time to read the Bible, we are likely to discover that the biblical writers do not agree with us, whatever version of sexual morality we are seeking to promote. Written more than 2,000 years ago at a significant historical and cultural distance, the Bible gathers together a diverse collection of ancient books, edited over time, not a coherent, divinely inspired set of instructions that can easily be applied. Tracing even a few, limited topics from one biblical book to another can make the point: If one book forbids marriage between foreigners and Israelites, the next depicts such marriages as a source of blessing, not only to Israel but to all of humankind. If one insists that women are saved by childbearing, the next recommends that women avoid childbearing altogether in order to devote themselves more fully to God. If one suggests that sex with a relative, the wife of another man, or with a male lover will certainly lead to the nation's downfall, the next depicts heroic kings engaging in precisely these forms of sex. And these are just a few examples.
Knust offers the same argument in her book.
Knust writes: "The Bible is complicated enough, ancient enough, and flexible enough to support an almost endless set of interpretive agendas."
That may be true, in part. Taken as a whole, the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament offer (for me) a vision of covenant. My sense is that covenant includes within our relationships between one another and with God that we should - in Paul's words - be subject to one another out of love. That doesn't mean we have an anything goes faith without rules or boundaries. In fact, the opposite is true. You cannot, for example, abandon your family and remain in covenant with God or your relatives. Justice and compassion are central to Christianity. Yet, not all teachings from scripture should be practiced today (if they were, we'd still own slaves, as sanctioned in some parts of the Bible).
We must use an interpretative process to discern God's will for us - and do not think for a moment this isn't just what the different authors of the Bible did during the many centuries it was transformed from oral tradition to the written word. Using Wesley's criteria for discernment, it is important that we open ourselves to the power of the Holy Spirit - God's own breathe - to help guide us and for us to undertake this enterprise with humility.
A generation ago, as I have mentioned, interracial marriage was outlawed. This was justified by the use of Scripture. Genesis 28:1 reads: "Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him, and charged him, 'You shall not marry one of the Canaanite women." In the past, this piece of Scripture was interpreted by some Christians to mean that Hebrews and Canaanites were of different races and therefore no races should inter-marry.
We may think this silly today but when Barack Obama was born his father - a black man - and his mother - a white woman - were barred from being legally married in many states and the justification was often Biblical. We have discerned over time, led by the power of the Holy Spirit, to understand not only our own error in interpretation but also the reality that some of what is written in Scripture has no moral authority over us today. Or should I quote from 1 Tim 2:11-12? "Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent."
You see, I'm willing to make the faith claim right here and now that God has no problems with interracial marriages, wants women to speak boldly with the voice of Sophia (the embodiment of God's wisdom), and that those who use Scripture to justify discrimination against gays and lesbians are making the same mistake in interpretation that we have made as a people over and over again.
So will I marry gay and lesbian couples?
Right now I'm a United Church of Christ minister serving two Reconciling Congregations in the United Methodist Church. The United Church of Christ affirms marriage equality. The United Methodist Church says homosexuality is incompatible with Christianity. And both Sunnyside Church and University Park Church have pledged to welcome all, and are faithfully engaging the larger United Methodist Church to change the rules and truly become a church with open hearts and open doors and open minds.
So yes, I will marry any gay and lesbian couple that I believe is ready to make that commitment, using the same criteria to make that call that I would for any heterosexual couple. To respect the rules of the United Methodist Church, I will conduct those services at Ainsworth United Church of Christ, my home congregation.
No member of Ebenezer Baptist Church called me to the ministry. You called me to Ebenezer, and you may turn me out of here, but you can't turn me out of the ministry, because I got my guidelines and my anointment from God Almighty. And anything I want to say, I'm going to say it from this pulpit. It may hurt somebody, I don't know about that; somebody may not agree with it. But when God speaks, who can but prophesy? The word of God is upon me like fire shut up in my bones, and when God's word gets upon me, I've got to say it, I've got to tell it all over everywhere. And God has called me to deliver those that are in captivity.
So if you're gay or you're lesbian or bi-sexual or transgendered or questioning, I want to make it clear today: I am your pastor too. I am your pastor if you're straight, if you're a Democrat or a Republican, if you're black, white, Latino. And no rulebook or law will prevent me from providing you with the pastoral care I am called to provide.
What I will no longer do after September is sign wedding licenses. Until the day comes when marriage equality is the law of the land I will no longer act as an agent of the state in an institution that is discriminatory. In this, I join a small but growing number of clergy. I will offer you the religious rites of the church but will invite you to have your marriage license signed by a judge or other official of the state.
When the General Synod of the United Church of Christ endorsed marriage equality in 2005, they noted:
The message of the Gospel is the lens through which the whole of scripture is to be interpreted. Love and compassion, justice and peace are at the very core of the life and ministry of Jesus. It is a message that always bends toward inclusion. The biblical story recounts the ways in which inclusion and welcome to God's community is ever expanding - from the story of Abraham and Sarah, to the inclusive ministry of Jesus, to the baptism of Cornelius, to the missionary journeys of Paul throughout the Greco- Roman world. The liberating work of the Spirit as witnessed in the activities of Jesus' ministry has been to address the situations and structures of exclusion, injustice and oppression that diminish God's people and keep them from realizing the full gift of human personhood in the context of human communion.
I find truth in this statement and have love for the United Methodist Church, United Church of Christ and the church universal - not as institutions, but as part of the body of Christ. We are all one in Christ. It is in that spirit of love, that I come forth today to share with you God's call to us to love all people in ways that honor and continue the ministry of Jesus. It is a ministry, as we heard this morning in our text from John, that is joyful and where the Disciples - and by extension us - are commanded once again simply to love as Jesus has loved us - without condition or judgment, and centered on God's desire for us to be free from oppression or captivity, in covenant with one another and with God.
Providence Health's decision to deny much needed health care information about available resources to vulnerable populations in our community, along with health care workers, does nothing to advance the common good. Providence Health is operated by the the Sisters of Providence, a Roman Catholic organization, and I certainly respect their opposition to abortion services which is deeply rooted in their faith and is not political. But Providence Health's decision to stop distributing this guide, which includes information on family planning, will only increase unwanted pregnancies and thus increase the number of abortions. It will hurt many others who are seeking emergency shelter, housing, alcohol and drug treatment and mental health treatment.
It is worth noting that many in the faith community support letting women make their own health care decisions. The United Church of Christ and the the United Methodist Church are among many Christian denominations, along with interfaith communities, that make up the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.
Ever wonder how charitable the people are who live in your state or community? It turns out that lower-income people tend to donate a much bigger share of their discretionary incomes than wealthier people do. And rich people are more generous when they live among those who aren't so rich.
It makes sense that those who are wealthy that live in lower income areas would give more. Once you are exposed to social issues I think the natural response is to want to help.
But here's something progressives ought to note: "Red states are more generous than blue states. The eight states where residents gave the highest share of income to charity went for John McCain in 2008. The seven-lowest ranking states supported Barack Obama."
Dear Commissioner Leonard and members of the Portland City Council:
I want to express my personal support for the proposed fluoridation plan. As a minister and father of eight year old twin daughters, health and dental care is a top concern. Making sure that low-income children have every advantage should be a top priority of our city and right now that just isn't the case. As you know, we have terrible rates of dental problems that result in ER visits and long-term issues for children. We see these problems at rates other cities don't. Fluoridation is a simple step that will help fix a big problem.
On my Facebook page, some people have raised questions about how people who might have medical issues with fluoride - such as allergies or thyroid problems that are impacted apparently by fluoride - might be impacted. I know that the fluoride levels will be at the HHS recommended levels but I would ask that you address these other issues in your discussions so that people feel Portland's plan is safe moving forward.
Again, thank you for your leadership on this issue. Commissioner Leonard deserves special thanks. Fluoridation will be an important part of his legacy and the result will be lower rates of dental problems for Portland's children. That's a legacy to be proud of.
No motive is known for the attack but it must be condemned by all who love God and seek justice. One guard was injured.
UPDATE:Additional information suggests this may be an act of domestic terrorism. Before this information was known, LGBT leaders, often the victims of politicals campaigns undertaken by the Family Reseach Council, released a statement that read: "We were saddened to hear news of the shooting this morning at the offices of the Family Research Council. Our hearts go out to the shooting victim, his family, and his co-workers" and that "regardless of what emerges as the reason for this shooting, we utterly reject and condemn such violence. We wish for a swift and complete recovery for the victim of this terrible incident."
We are reminded of the words spoken by The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. a generation ago:
The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. … Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
The anti-civil rights organization "National Organization for Marriage" is blaming this attack on the Southern Poverty Law Center. That's irresponsible. The Southern Poverty law Center has always promoted non-violence and justice. Regardless of the motive of the shooter, the fact remains that the Family Research Council promotes an agenda of hate and division that must be called out.
UPDATE: It is worth noting that the Family Research Council which has opposed sensible gun controls and partnered with the NRA did not issue statements calling for prayers in the wake of the mass shootings in Colorado or the Sikh temple.
Mitt Romney's new false ad claiming that President Obama is waging a "war on religion" can only be called sad and pathetic. President Obama is himself a faithful Christian who has worked across religious lines to promote the common good of our nation. His health care reform plan has been supported by the National Council of Churches and many religious groups. Governor Romney - who was pro-choice and pro-birth control until he decided to run for president - should be ashamed of the gutter politics his campaign is playing. He is using religious faith as a tool to divide Americans. Someone hoping to be president should have better judgement and ethics.
Members of Sunnyside Church and University Park Church pray for the victims of the Sikh Temple shooting.
As the people of Sunnyside Church and University Park Church gathered for a joint BBQ and celebration of our shared ministries together we learned of the mass shooting at the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin. We offered prayers for those killed and wounded. This terrible event reminds us once again that Christians are called to preach a message of love and compassion to a world torn apart by too much violence. Further, it reinforces to need for Christian communities to develop interfaith partnerships and friendships to promote understanding. We are also reminded, without question, that one of the responsibilities of the church universal is to work toward an end of gun violence. No one in a house of worship should be cut down by bullets fired in hate. As we know now, the suspect was a white supremacist. Were his actions motivated by those who preach intolerance towards minority religions? It would not come as a surprise as too many politicians and religious leaders have used faith in recent years as a tool to divide Americans. Our faith should never be so misused and it is certainly the responsibility of Christians across this great nation not only to condemn this act of hate but to work toward reconciliation. This terrible event, just like the mass shooting in Colorado two weeks ago, never should have happened. It is time for all people of faith to join together in opposition to the gun lobby and others who support the legality of weapons of mass killing in our neighborhoods and streets. Enough is enough. Click here to tell President Obama, Governor Romney and Congress that we are better than this.
Sunday was a busy day for the people of University Park Church and Sunnyside Church. Dispite the high heat and no A/C in either church (this is Portland, afterall) we had good turnout for worship at both services. Our focus Scripture was Ephesians 4: 1-16 (using The Message translation):
"A diverse coalition of over 60 faith leaders are releasing a statement today expressing their strong opposition to any legislative proposal that fails to extend the 2009 improvements made to refundable tax credits such as the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit," reports Faith in Public Life. You'll find my name among the signers.
Don’t Dismantle Pro-Family Tax Credits
As Christian leaders, we believe that our nation's tax policies are fundamentally about values and priorities. Our religious tradition provides a vision for responsible government that serves the common good, not simply the privileged few. This requires those who have succeeded the most to pay their fair share of taxes. It also requires our commitment to public education, quality health care, vital infrastructure investments and programs that protect poor and vulnerable people. Congress will soon vote on tax measures that will have a profound impact on working families and the poor.
We are deeply opposed to any proposal that fails to extend the crucial improvements made in 2009 to refundable tax credits such as the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit. These tax credits help families meet basic needs, reduce poverty, and remove barriers to work. It is hypocritical for lawmakers who talk about family values to abandon improvements in these effective, family-supporting programs. Failing to extend the improved tax credits would jeopardize the economic security and well-being of more than 15 million families and more than 36 million children within those families. This is simply unconscionable.
We are also deeply concerned that some leaders in Washington who oppose extending these improved tax credits are at the same time calling for an extension of Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest few. Favoring the wealthiest 2% over working families is irresponsible public policy that fails a basic moral test. We are not economists or tax experts.
But this debate is about more than dry statistics or competing fiscal theories. Ultimately, these choices reflect our values and reveal our priorities as a nation. We urge Members of Congress to put families and workers before ideological agendas that favor the powerful.
Mark J. Allman, Religious Theological Studies Department, Merrimack College
David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World
Gerald J. Beyer, Associate Professor of Theology, Saint Joseph’s University
Joanna Brooks, Progressive Mormon author
Bishop John R. Bryant, African Methodist Episcopal Church
Nicholas P. Cafardi, Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law, Duquesne University School of Law
Sr. Simone Campbell, Executive Director, NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Tony Campolo, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Eastern University
Patrick Carolan, Executive Director, Franciscan Action Network
Rev. Noel Castellanos, Chief Executive Officer, Christian Community Development Association
Rev. Drew Christiansen, S.J., Editor in Chief, America Magazine
Richard Cizik, President, New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good
Rev. John A. Coleman, S.J., Associate Pastor, St. Ignatius Parish, San Francisco
M. Shawn Copeland, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, Boston College
Rev. Chuck Currie, Minister, Sunnyside Church and University Park Church, Portland, Oregon
Nancy Dallavalle, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, Department of Religious Studies, Fairfield University
Marie Dennis, Co-President, Pax Christi International
Sr. Pat Farrell, OSF, President, Leadership Conference of Women Religious Francis Schüssler Fiorenza, Stillman Professor for Roman Catholic Theological Studies, Harvard Divinity School
Rev. Michael Harrison, President, Ohio Baptist State Convention
Rev. Dr. Peter Heltzel, Micah Institute at New York Theological Seminary
Sr. Mary Ann Hinsdale, IHM, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, Boston College
Joel C. Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland, A Church Distributed
John Inglis, Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy, Cross-appointed to Department of Religious Studies, University of Dayton
Paul Lakeland, Aloysius P. Kelly, S.J. Professor of Catholic Studies, Fairfield University
Rev. Michael Livingston, Director, National Council of Churches Poverty Initiative
Sr. Gayle Lwanga Crumbley, RGS, National Coordinator, National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
Kathleen Maas Weigert, Assistant to the Provost for Social Justice Initiatives, Loyola University, Chicago
Rev. Steven D. Martin, Executive Director, New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good Rev. Bryan N. Massingale, Professor of Theological Ethics, Marquette University
Gene McCarraher, Associate Professor of Humanities, Villanova University
Sr. Patricia McDermott, RSM, President, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas
Rev. Brian McLaren, Evangelical writer and speaker
Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley, General Secretary, American Baptist Churches, USA Alex Mikulich, Assistant Professor, Jesuit Social Research Institute, Loyola University, New Orleans
Vincent J. Miller, Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture, Department of Religious Studies, University of Dayton
Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, III, Senior Pastor, Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago
Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness, Washington, DC
David O'Brien, University Professor of Faith and Culture, University of Dayton
William L. Portier, Chair of Catholic Theology, University of Dayton
Christopher Pramuk, Associate Professor of Theology, Xavier University, Cincinnati
Rev. Thomas J. Reese, S.J., Senior Fellow, Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University
Rev. Gabriel Salguero, President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition
Stephen F. Schneck, Director, Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, The Catholic University of America
Ron Sider, President, Evangelicals for Social Action
Anthony B. Smith, Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies, University of Dayton
John Sniegocki, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, Xavier University, Cincinnati
Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, Professor of Theology and former President, Chicago Theological Seminary
Terrence W. Tilley, Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., Professor of Catholic Theology and Chair, Theology Department, Fordham University, Bronx
Bishop Edgar L. Vann, Second Ebeneezer Church, Detroit Jim Wallis, President and CEO, Sojourners
Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the U.S. and Canada
Todd Whitmore, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, University of Notre Dame
Barbara Williams-Skinner, Founder, Skinner Leadership Institute
Jim Winkler, General Secretary, General Board of Church & Society of the United Methodist Church
Tobias Winright, Associate Professor of Theological Ethics, Saint Louis University
Aidsand Wright-Riggins, III, Executive Director, American Baptist Home Mission Societies
Views expressed here represent the perspectives of Rev. Currie, as well as reader participants, and may not represent the views of Pacific University, the United Church of Christ’s national offices in Cleveland or any local UCC congregation. External links made from this site should not construe an endorsement. Rev. Currie has no more editorial control over such content than does a public library, bookstore, or newsstand. Such external links are made for informational purposes only.