Monthly Archives: March 2019

Bodies of Breath and Mud: A Comprehensive Christian Sexual Ethic (A Series)

Part One: The Very Beginning

Then the Lord God formed Ha’Adam from the dust of the ground, and breathed into their nostrils the breath of life; and Ha’Adam became a living being

Genesis 2:7

The person across from me reaches into their chest removing glob after glob after glob of mud. They place each into a sieve resting in my hands and wait. Gently and purposefully I run clean water over the mud. Larger particles are trapped in the mesh. I take them out and turn them over and over. We discuss each bit and some we decide to polish, some to smelt, or some to throw away. There are hundreds. We do this for a little while, then the washed silt is put back in. There will always be more work, always new bits accumulating, the mud in front of me is alive, it moves through this world picking up new detritus every day, for good or ill.

In pastoral care I am often presented with questions of ethics by people who expect me to have solid answers. People come to me for consolation or absolution or just to vent when life gets overwhelming or confusing. To a substantial portion of people I am viewed as the person who is supposed to be able to sort things neatly into boxes. Whereas I view myself as another mud person holding a sieve.

When I say we are made of mud, that is as much a reference to Genesis as it is a simple concession that our lives are never easily divided into good and bad. Clean and Unclean. Water and Dirt. Humans, I remind my parishioners, are muddy. Our ethics are muddy. Our morals are muddy. Our lives are muddy. And this is the price of doing business in a world beset with dubious moral positions.

Do I buy this burger for my unhoused friend, knowing it will give him joy, even though it contributes to morally repugnant factory farming practices and exploitation of workers? Do I expect a young mother to avoid buying the only clothes she can afford for her children while other children are making them as a means to survive the systems of oppression our country helped put in place? Do I spend time with my own children or spend time trying to make the world they live in better?

The very nature of existence in our society is increasingly morally ambiguous simply because the social systems we exist under are exploitative and sinful. Our virtues are built upon our vices. Our Christian heroes of the faith are praised for standing against the principalities and powers, but if the camera pans downward all of them are standing on the backs of the oppressed of some other place or time. Indeed, that is how we can see them. That is not a condemnation, it is a lamentation. In my darker moments it often feels like Newton’s third law has translated to morality. For every action, an equal and opposite reaction. A maudlin, and in my opinion, false dichotomy but a real worry worth keeping sight of.

It is from this point. This understanding that human interaction is necessarily colored by the social institutions and power imbalances that plague us. This understanding that there is no perfect moral system within the empires of our world. It is from this point, that we talk about the fact that we are the breath of God.

We are not mere lumps of mud, we are children of the divine, and we contain within us the ability to love, to purify, to illuminate, and to breathe life back out into the world. We have the ability to reimagine, and recreate in the image of heaven. This is the other half of the equation when we delve into such a muddy topic as sexual ethics. We have to ask not only about how muddy each encounter is getting, how to limit ties to systems of power and exploitation but, as Christians, we must ask is this encounter life giving? Is this encounter illuminating? Is this encounter an image of heaven?

A Christian sexual ethic is concerned not just with the mundane but with the sacred and the relationship between the two. I believe that there are answers to some of our questions, and I also believe that there is nuance and humanity in each question that should not be ignored. So as we delve into the progressive christian sexual ethics, please carry these two concepts in tension.

We are human and divine.

We must accept the fullness of each if we are to enter into a fulfilling relationship with our own sexual nature.

May the Spirit walk with us and inform us on this journey together. Amen.  

Updates and Changes for the Progressive Christian Alliance

“The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.”


— C. JoyBell c

Hello, Friends!

There is a lot of change happening in the background for the Progressive Christian Alliance. I know that we have been promising change for awhile now, and while we had some roadblocks last year getting these changes off the ground, we are now moving full steam ahead!

The biggest project we are working on, is implementing our membership program for laity, clergy, and churches, and streamlining our ordination process. Our Ordination Committee Chair, Rev. Marie Bat’el and our Leadership Co-char, Rev. Alaina Cobb will be working on improving our document systems and making the process more clear for both those seeking ordination and for our Ordination Committee Mentors. I’m hoping that we’ll have this process fully fleshed out and in place by the end of this Summer.

Another major project will be updating our website. Along with the new membership process, we are also planning to add a progressive Christian resource page for clergy and laity, bringing back the ProgCA Clergy Directory,  and many other enhancements. If you have any ideas for resources that should go on the resource page, please feel free to send it to us.

Some other future projects that we have in the pipeline are:

  • Launch of our YouTube channel where we can showcase videos of our clergy and churches in action.
  • Livestream Q&A sessions with the Leadership Council on YouTube
  • Launch of mailing lists for members to receive news directly about ProgCA happenings.
  • A possible online Convocation for 2020.

We hope that you will continue to have patience with us as these projects come into fruition. The Progressive Christian Alliance is completely run by volunteers and it may seem that these changes are slow, but I assure you, we are doing our best to make sure we can serve all of you as well as we possibly can.

If you have suggestions, or would like to volunteer to help with any of these projects, please contact us!

Again, thank you all for your patience and grace during this time of change. Change is never easy, but I hope, in the end, we will become a stronger and more efficient organization.

Blessings,

Rev. Gina

To our fellow United Methodist Church LGBTQA and LGBTQA-allied Siblings

Psalm 44:23-26 Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord? Awake, do not cast us off forever! Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? For we sink down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground. Rise up, come to our help. Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love.

Isaiah 61:1-3 The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion – to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.

It is with hearts made heavy by the weight of shared hope and justice denied that we the Progressive Christian Alliance join with our faithful siblings in the United Methodist Church in lamenting the harm done to the LGBTQ+ members of the body of Christ, and the body of Christ as a whole. 
Though we know the wounds of the special conference will be long to heal and the road ahead filled with much uncertainty, we wish to encourage those who struggle for justice. The Lord is with you dear friends, the Church incomplete without you. 

We grieve with you and pray for the presence of the comforter within these trying times. We pray that you will hear clearly the voice of the spirit as she calls to you as a church and as individuals. 

So beautiful are those who proclaim the gospel, who share with love the Imago Dei that our creator has gifted, who spread wide the table of our Lord. We celebrate each of you who has gifted your church with that amazing and bountiful presence, and we pray for your continued ministry. Queerness is a gift that God has given, and we affirm and extol the virtue of those who share their whole self in vulnerability and delight. We see you, we honor you, and we wish to serve you as you prepare for walking in faith on whatever path our God is calling you into.

And so, on this Ash Wednesday as we enter into the Lenten Season of discernment and divine mystery we open wide our doors to you who are traveling and ask that you come and rest with us a while.

The Progressive Christian Alliance is now offering a period of open dual-ordination and open ordination to any Queer Clergy or Clergy facing discipline for supporting their brothers, sisters, and siblings within the United Methodist Church. As you discern the path of your continued ministry, whether that is remaining with the UMC, seeking ordination in another denomination, entering another line of work or any other path during this time, we would like to remove any worry over loss of credentials and the uncertainty that brings. We know there are queer clergy who are chaplains, directors of ministries, and in other positions where credentials are a necessity and we want to remove any difficulty this situation may cause so that you are free to follow the lead of the spirit wherever she takes you.

We want to be clear that this is a unique ordination path to be used as tool while discerning next steps or while seeking ordination elsewhere, if you seek sole ordination within the Progressive Christian Alliance you may do so while serving on this ordination track. We would be honored for you to be a part of our PCA family, but want that to be a choice made out of shared love and values and not fear or desperation.

This is also a free program, there will be no fees assessed during the tenure of your ordination, nor for the application process of this ordination track.

If you wish to apply please Email the Progressive Christian Alliance Leadership Council Co-Chair Rev. Alaina Cobb to begin the process. 
CoChair@ProgressiveChristianAlliance.org

We mourn with you on this day set aside to remember our own mortality. As we remember that we are ash, we remember that our institutions are ash, that our hurts are ash, that our fears are ash, and that our Lord makes beautiful things from Ash.

Thank you for your beautiful witness, and may Godde bless and keep your ministry as they lead you into a new season. Amen.

-The Leadership Council of the Progressive Christian Alliance