Serving since 2007

Serving since 2007

Saturday, August 29, 2015

When a Same-Sex Couple Asks ‘Will You Marry Us?’

However we respond, let's communicate love.
Rachel Triska

In June when The Supreme Court ruled on Obergefell v. Hodges, and made same-sex marriage the law of the land, churches across the U.S. prepared to respond to the legal implications. When I heard about the ruling, all I could think about were my friends. Would any of them ask me to officiate their same-sex wedding? I knew I wouldn’t be comfortable officiating. But I needed to think about my answer carefully. If anyone did ask, I wanted them to walk away thinking, “She really loves us.”

Jesus commanded us to be known by our love for one another. In times when our understanding of Scripture has profound relational consequences, it’s important to make sure we are known for our love. Working in an increasingly post-Christian context has provided us with a unique opportunity to obey this challenging command. Here are a few principles I’ve found helpful in loving those who either live outside the Christian ethic or interpret Scripture differently than I do.

Love puts others at ease.
Jesus was at ease around all kinds of people. When Jesus went to the well and spoke with the Samaritan woman, he demonstrated no concern for what people might think (John 4). In fact, throughout his ministry, Jesus was a ready friend of those whose lifestyle others found offensive. He was a friend of sinners.

I have a confession: I enjoy ABC’s TV show Modern Family. It’s one of the best comedies on television (in my opinion). But when the topic of favorite TV shows come up, I’m tempted to omit it from my list. Modern Family portrays a married same-sex couple raising a family. Some Christians have called for boycotts of shows favorably depicting same-sex couples.

So why doesn’t the show offend me? It is reflective of the world I minister to every day. My daughter goes to school with a wonderful kid who has two moms. My best friend’s sister married her partner last year. Two young men who have been a huge blessing to our community have been partners for the last five years. My husband’s uncle is a minister and married his partner years ago. I have no desire to turn off the TV when Modern Family comes on because I have no desire to shut these people out of my life. More than that, I want them to feel at ease with me.

I have a friend who we joke is an agnostic on good days and an atheist on bad ones. He was in our building the other day for a meeting. As he left, I wanted to say, “I’ll be praying for you.” For some reason, I hesitated. Instead of assuming what was appropriate I said, “I wanted to say that I’ll be praying for you … we’ve been friends long enough, right? I can say that?”
He chuckled and said, “Yep, you and my mom.”

Love leads the way.
If we want others to be at ease with us, merely tolerating or ignoring their life-styles is not the answer. We need to accept people where they are. Otherwise, the lack of acceptance becomes a barrier to meaningful friendship. Jesus understood this.

We all know the story where a woman caught in the act of adultery is dragged before Jesus (John 8). The people who brought her wanted her dead. They asked Jesus for his opinion regarding her guilt but he refused to judge her. Instead, he told the mob, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” As Jesus words sank in, the crowd slowly dispersed.

Jesus was the one person who had the right to judge that woman yet he refused to condemn her. When he did address her, he said, “Has no one condemned you? Then, neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin” (8:7).

There’s a beautiful pattern to Jesus’ ministry; he led with love. I have not always gotten this right. Several years ago, a woman in our community seemed to connect with another woman in a way that I felt was unhealthy. In an attempt to fix things, I confronted her behavior. I told her I loved her, but looking back, I realized my main goal had been to change her. Before the conversation, we’d been close. After, our relationship eroded. I echoed Jesus’ words about leaving her sin, but I lobbed stones with the way I talked to her. It was a hard way to learn an important lesson: lead with love.

Love welcomes the truth.
Several years ago a friend of mine started coming to our church. I knew she wasn’t a believer and every time she joined us, she cried through the service. After several weeks of this, I asked her to meet me for dinner. She shared the cause of her tears and how our services felt like a safe place to mourn.

After talking for a while, she said she wanted me to know something. “I’m a Pagan,” she said. To which I responded, “That’s okay, I’m a pastor.” Then, more seriously, I thanked her for sharing.

She was a friend and I didn’t want her to feel like she needed to hide anything about herself. I did have one caveat. I explained, “Because of my faith, I’m going to talk about Jesus sometimes. It’s impossible for you to be my friend and not know that part of me. So, I want you to be you. I just ask the same freedom for myself.”

I’ve had that conversation in different forms many times over many years. The invitation to “be you because I want to know you” is vital in friendships. Truth sets us free. So, love always welcomes the truth.

Love surrenders assumptions.
Years ago, I assumed if people really loved Jesus, then they suddenly wouldn’t be gay. I assumed people in the LGBTQ community had sexual abuse in their past. I had a lot of uninformed and unhealthy assumptions. It kept me from loving and accepting them as Jesus does.

Assumptions diminish our capacity to love because they diminish our ability to know and understand people. As I’ve developed friendships with people in the LGBTQ community, many of my assumptions have died and empathy has grown in their place. These days, my relationships are deep enough that there are times when I wish I’m the one who has wrongly interpreted Scripture. That level of relationship isn’t dangerous—it’s just love.
The apostle John underscored the priority of love: “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother or sister, who they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” (I John 4:20-21).

There may be people whose lifestyles are difficult for you to understand and thus difficult to love. I get that. There are some that are difficult for me. But here’s the question we must all learn to ask: What might God be asking me to give up in order to love people as he does?

Rachel Triska is coleader of Life in Deep Ellum in Dallas, Texas.

You are not just bigots, but stupid bigots!

Friday 28th of August 2015

Two Derry men who shouted sectarian abuse at a Salvation Army parade in the city were told by a judge that they were 'not just bigots but stupid bigots'.

Stephen O'Reilly, 20, of Bloomfield Park in Galliagh, was charged with disorderly behaviour, assaulting and resisting police on June 6.
Lee Coyle, 19, also from Bloomfield Park, was charged with similar offences on the same date.

Derry Magistrates Court was today told that a Salvation Army parade was taking place in the Diamond area of the city and Coyle was seen standing in the middle of the road shouting 'Orange b------s'.

He refused to move on and police tried to reason with him but he pushed a female officer in the chest and struggled with police.

As regards O'Reilly, the court was told that the band of the Salvation Army was forced to cut short their performance due to the defendant's behaviour.
He was trying to assault members of the band and was shouting sectarian abuse such as 'Orange b------s'.

He also shouted 'F--k the PSNI'.

The court was told there was a large crowd of shoppers in the area and O'Reilly continued to shout and swear at police.

Defence barrister for O'Reilly, Eoghain Devlin , said it was hard to think of another incidence of such 'ignorance and stupidity’.

He said the court was 'not only dealing with two stupid individuals but two who had not taken the time to notice the make-up of our society.'

He said on the day in question O'Reilly for reasons known only to himself had stopped taking his medication and taken alcohol.

Stephen Mooney, counsel for Coyle, said it was 'drunken, obnoxious behaviour' and said that the Salvation Army made for a very soft target.

He said the incident was 'unpleasant for shoppers' who were in the area at the time.

District Judge Barney McElholm said the Salvation Army do 'tremendous good' for both sides of the community and would help anyone in need.
He went on: "The idea that good people like that were subjected to this gross, vile, sectarian abuse should fill anyone with horror."

He told both men that they deserved to go straight to prison.

He adjourned the case until November 30 and told both men that if they did not come in to court on that date with £250 each for the Salvation Army they were going to prison.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Rules of Engagement Article TWO

If you think lawyers don't have heart let this story serve as an eye opener…

The Salvation Army realized that it had never received a donation from the city's most celebrated lawyer. So a uniformed Army’s lass volunteer paid the lawyer a visit in his lavish office.

The volunteer opened the meeting by saying, 'Our research reveals that even though your annual income is over two million dollars, you don't give a penny to charity, at least not the Salvation Army. Wouldn't you like to give something back to your community?

The lawyer thinks for a minute and says, 'First, did your research also show you that my mother is dying after a long painful illness, and she has huge medical bills that are far beyond her ability to pay?' Embarrassed, the rep mumbles, 'Uh... No, I didn't know that.'

'Second says the lawyer, did it show that my brother, a disabled Afghanistan Veteran, is blind and confined to a wheelchair and is unable to support his wife and six children?’ The stricken rep begins to stammer an apology, but is cut off again.

'Third, did your research also show you that my sister's husband died in a dreadful car accident, leaving her penniless with a mortgage and three children, one of whom is disabled and another that has learning disabilities requiring an array of private tutors?' The humiliated ‘church lady’, completely beaten, says, 'I'm so sorry. I had no idea. “

And the lawyer says, 'So, if I didn't give any money to them, what makes you think I'd give any to you?’

Fortunately the cheap-skate lawyer is not typical of the average charitable giver. Charitable giving in the US reached a new record in 2014; almost $360 billion. However, religious giving slowed as fewer Americans claim religious affiliation and turned their focus to a wider variety of charitable causes; “congregations shrink and givers embrace a wider variety of charitable causes”. (USA Foundation, a Chicago-area nonprofit)
Religious giving has been ceding ground to other categories over the past few decades, and that trend continued in 2014. CSM June 16, 2015

"While the overall growth is indicative of robust philanthropy … we would be remiss to gloss over what is happening with giving to religion,” Giving USA chairman David King said in the report’s release.... But religious giving “is continuing its 30-year dramatic downward slide,” Mr. King notes. Donations to religious institutions has dropped from 53 percent of all donations in 1987 to 32 percent in less than three decades. Unsurprisingly, demographics have a lot to do with religion’s shrinking piece of the charity pie. The number of Americans who don’t have any religious affiliation grew to about 56 million last year, a nearly 7 percent increase in just 7 years. The trend is even more pronounced among Millennial adults; those with no religious affiliation outnumber both mainline Protestants and Catholics in that age group.

A similar pattern of declining charitable giving is found in in Europe as the center of Christianity has shifted from Europe to the global South. A century ago, 80 percent of Christians lived in North America and Europe, compared with just 40 percent today. And today 25% of all Christians in the world is in Africa, and the Pew Research Center (USA) estimates that will grow to 40 percent by 2030.

Christian charitable giving in the UK
In spite of impressive flurries of interest in matters spiritual here and there in the UK, the downward trend in altruistic giving has continued unabated the last 20 years. In that time almost every branch of Christianity has felt the reality of this decline. And according to a recent study Muslims will soon outnumber Anglicans attending church in England.

The recession has impacted evangelicals giving
Twenty-five per cent of evangelical donors stated that their giving has been impacted by the recession. While most evangelicals are keeping their regular giving commitment some of them are making fewer one-off donations in response to appeals and nearly half of them are not taking on new giving opportunities.

Today churches and Christian charities are facing significant fund raising challenges. Here are some of them: The continuing decline in church attendance points to a 2015 Sunday church attendance drop in England to below 2.5 million, just 4.7% of the population.

Lack of attendance is likely to translate into reduced giving to support church’s mission. New Christians who have been brought up in non-Christian homes have no real understanding of stewardship and a very limited knowledge of Christian charities and their work and may be reluctant (like the attorney) to donate any moneys. And most churches and Christian charities have not developed robust strategies to engage with new Christians and younger younger givers.

A growing number of churches and charities are competing for a limited pool of funds and this situation is made worse by the current recession which has forced several Christian charities, including the SA to close their doors and reduced their programming. At present UK SA budget re-analysis have a large majority of lay staff wondering if they’ll soon be made redundant.

More and more donors evaluate where and how they give – so it is becoming harder for charities to generate increased support without insights on dynamics of giving. The most compelling reasons for giving according to recent surveys are: trust in a charity’s effectiveness and transparency about how the money is used, followed by donors having some kind of first-hand experience of a charity’s work and personal interest in the people or the area where the charity is helping. The types of religious activities that motivate people to give are evolving and churches and Christian charities need to understand people’s attitudes towards mission and ministry to inspire and challenge them effectively.

The major cause supported by evangelical donors is Christian mission outreach, and which is the key focus of the FSAOF mission projects.

Designated Gifts – Targeted Projects

Some potential donors take a very restrictive view, claiming that the SA and other major charities are already well supported by the United Way (USA), Children in Need (UK) and World Vision (Canada), and that individual churches should be supported by ‘its own’ and their denominational headquarters.  Sometimes though, as the FSAOF has recently witnessed, the beneficiary is its own malefactor in impeding delivery and receipt of urgently needed donations.

Considerable confusion exists in the charitable supported world regarding public, private and corporate giving and perhaps most of all as it concerns designated gifts.

In the same way that financial analysts research to find the best possible investment opportunities, the FSAOF, relying on the far-reaching resources and experience of its members concerning specific SA Commands-units, investigate their unique needs, the country’s customs and import laws, and the local physical and financial distribution chain. There isn’t a country or command where FSAOF members haven’t served or been in command. Consequently, we can assist outside donors and our own member donors to create a balanced giving portfolio to best reflect the giving interests and the change we all hope to achieve. We have the tools they need to give ‘better’ and to ensure higher returns on their donations, based on our own FSAOF and recipients’ evidence.

From experience attracting donors and securing early, on-going commitments of financial and general support is critical to start-up and expanding programs. And these are the focus of our nine-year mission projects’ funding which have moved us to visit and contribute funding and material donations to more than fourteen SA centres in 7 countries. Our early focus was on the SA work in Latvia. Subsequent to FSAOF inspection visits a delivery of 600 new winter coats for children and adults was coordinated by the FSAOF in cooperation with the SA Norway. Summer camps and Christmas parties were conducted for four years. The FSAOF provided all necessary staff, including nurses and qualified-experienced camp leaders, food, equipment, instruments, computers, AV audio/video equipment, and more. For the last 4 years we have wired regular funding totaling in the thousands of dollars and delivered medical and dental equipment to a Salvationist operated free mobile dental clinic serving the Crimea Russia region.

All in all our mission projects have impacted directly on several thousand needy persons, families and SA members. And FSAOF designated giving and gifts in kind total more than $25,000.00 per annum to Eastern Europe SA centres alone. Our activities, while not highly publicized, are well known and appreciated by IHQ, many THQs, active Salvationists and staff especially in E Europe. Request for FSAOF support are received almost daily and passed on for immediate action. Regrettably our offer of support is not always welcomed. And nothing impedes or causes disinterest by our members and other donors more than strong-handed, hard-driving ‘corporate’ bullying. Recent exchanges have caused a debilitating emotional drain on our volunteer members. There have been (documented) instances of dishonest bullying leaders moving in a contrived Christian culture. The leader’s demands, duplicitous conduct and the ‘in-your-face’ self-exaggerated status of their office have taken supremacy over any sense of ethical conduct, courtesy or grace.

A universal ethic respected among charities is that they are not free to use or allocate funds designated for a specific purpose or person in a manner falling outside the strict parameters established by the donor. Some SA commands, in order to ‘manipulate’ designated donations obfuscate to conceal their experience, knowledge and actions. Others have been disingenuous in their methods in working with the FSAOF and have been untruthful. (Verbatim exchanges in our ‘private files’) Yet some take a very expansive view, asking that the FSAOF SA assist the receiving command in designing and accomplishing joint charitable and religious goals. The practicality we are experiencing and the ideal team work wished for sit somewhere between these extremes.


Public and private Face-Book chat message exchanges with the FSAOF the last thirty days revealed a very unattractive characteristic of the SA’s leadership culture in some cultures. Their hard-driving ‘corporate’ bullying must cause many of their indigenous  colleagues to raise an eyebrow or two....

Sven Ljungholm

Thursday, August 27, 2015

It's Thursday August 27, 2015


Thursday 27th August  2015

'So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt,”' Genesis 41:41. How quickly life has turned around in the most amazing way for Joseph. One minute he is languishing in prison with seemingly no hope of getting out. The next, he is the second most powerful man in the land. When God moves he doesn't do half measures. When he gives, he doesn't give merely what we need. He is a God of the super abundance, who blesses us with more than we ever deserve, more than we could have hoped for or imagined. When Jesus fed the 5,000, those 5 loaves and 2 fish were transformed into more than enough to satisfy the hunger of the people.

The only thing that puts the brakes on God's abundant giving is our disobedience, which is always due to our lack of faith. Challenging the people to give to God what is rightfully his, God says, 'See if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it,' Malachi 3:10. Our God is One who, as St Paul reminds us in Ephesians 3:20, 'is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power …' What God did in Egypt was immeasurably more than Joseph ever anticipated. He had to give up keeping records (v49), such was the vastness of the harvests. Sometimes we just do not believe enough in what God himself can do. We expect little and so that is what God gives us. He isn't one to disappoint. If we would only expect much, again he would not disappoint and would probably give us far more than we asked for.

Joseph now has a brand new life. At last he has been liberated from what no doubt plagued him and distressed him during his last 13 years, when I'm sure he was always looking back. But now he has hope, where there was none, value where before he felt valueless, a bright future in place of a bleak one. He is able at last to put the past behind him, to forget the horror of it all, (v51). He is a new man. One is reminded of what Jesus is able to do for us, bringing hope in place of hopelessness, help in place of helplessness, value in place of worthlessness, 'Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away, behold all things have become new,'
2 Corinthians 5:17. God bless you all.

God bless you all.