Thursday, October 31, 2013

All Saint’s Day Letter to Cyberspace Friends - AD 70

This is an imaginary letter dated All Saint’s Day, written by a follower of Jesus, who lived in the year 70 A.D., and is addressed to “the saints in cyberspace”.  You may be surprised to be addressed as “saints’, but for us a “saint” was someone who belonged to those who had found a new life, in which love was the main theme. That’s why it is natural for us to call you “saints”. The letter goes on to say, you may wonder why I’m writing to you at all.  We’re so different, that you wonder whether we’ve anything to say to each other, so perhaps it would be just as well to put down some of the differences between us.

First, there were only a handful of us; there are millions of you.  Second, we had no money, no church buildings, no clergy, creed or doctrine, and no O & R or manual. You have all of these things. Third, we were feared, and finally hated.  You’re respected; at least tolerated, and sometimes not even noticed.  Fourth, we were set apart from the world we lived in; you’re so mixed up in it that it’s almost impossible now to tell a Christian from anyone else.  Fifth, we lived closer to Jesus and that gave us a radiance that you don’t have; and there was recklessness about us that you’ve lost.  We had nothing to lose.  You have everything to lose – your personal and institutional priorities, your ecclesiastical status, and your personal reputation: things you lose if you take any risks.

It was easier for us in some ways.  We didn’t know anything about science.  If the earth looked flat, we thought it was flat.  If the world looked ‘done in’ we thought it was coming to an end.  If we saw Christ after his death, we knew that he was alive.  Besides, the New Testament was just beginning to take shape.  We didn’t analyze, criticize, pick it apart, or study it under a microscope.  Some of us were writing it, and the rest were listening to the letters that came to us from the prisons where some of the saints were being held.  I’ll never forget a letter that came from Paul.  We didn’t understand a lot of it, but when he wrote “Be not conformed to this world; but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”, it was something we needed to hear when the glamour of the world began to dazzle us.

There is indeed a difference between you and us.  When you come to think of it, every generation is different from every other, yet each generation has something to learn from the ones that have gone before it, so I’m bold to say that there are some things you might learn from us.  First, we took the church seriously. You were either in it or out of it.  You take it casually.  There’s another thing.  We were exclusive, but we had to be, we were too small to mix with the crowd.  Your danger is to be one with the crowd, but you must learn to mix without melding.  And there’s another thing, we had moral standards, perhaps they were too strict, but your danger is to set them too low.  You long to be free of rules and regulations that don’t make sense.  So did we, but we always tried to distinguish between the practice and the principle. What we ate, what we wore, were practices that changed with the weather.  

It was the principle of love that didn’t change.

The letter ends with an exhortation.  You are the saints.  You’re the ones holding the line.  You’re the light of the world and the salt of the earth.  Don’t let the times get you down.  Our times were worse than yours.  These are the times that need people like you: people who have renounced hate; people who are slow to condemn and quick to understand; people who make mistakes and therefore are loathe to judge other people’s mistakes; people whose business it is to reconcile, to heal, and to mend; people who are caught up in the whirlpool of time because they belong to “Someone” who is timeless. We trust you, we wish you well.  The letter is signed: an unknown saint who found life when she lost it.

Dr. John Sullivan
Former Officer

Healed of My Same-sex Attractions

The FSAOF has since its inception shared scores of articles focusing on GLBT issues and explored, researched and advocated greater inclusivity in the SA. Rumblings have been heard and confirm that our activities and those of others have prompted SA leadership to move forward and we expect the SA will take a new direction within the next 18 months. 


Surely they could tell I was butch. But they were so welcoming and loving...

Surely they could tell I was butch. But they were so welcoming and loving...

It was a Sunday morning, the beginning of football season.

I was wearing my Dallas Cowboys jersey, ready to root for them. I was visiting my parents who lived in Las Vegas. I looked forward to spending more time with them after the game. They were heading off to church, and I was heading to the casino to watch the game.

That is, until Mom and Dad asked me to go with them to church that morning. They wanted me to meet some of their new friends and to meet the pastor and his wife.

I had nothing against going to church, mind you. It was just that the game would be starting at 10:00, and, well, I preferred watching football to attending church. In the back of my mind was also the fact that their church is one that believes homosexuality is a sin. My thinking was that it would be easier on everyone if their lesbian daughter just took herself to the casino to watch some football.

But I ended up going to church that day. Even though I was almost 35 years old, I was still my parents' daughter, I was visiting their home, and I knew they had their hearts set on my going with them. Little did I know how significant visiting their church was going to be for me.

Mom and Dad introduced me to each of their friends at church that morning. I was impressed with how friendly everyone was. Toward me and toward each other as well. As the service started, the church had a "welcoming time," and folks were out of their seats and literally
walking clear across the church to say hello to someone they did not know or had not seen in awhile.

Many came my way, sporting huge smiles and bright eyes. They spoke words of welcome. Some gave me huge hugs. A couple of them told me they were not Cowboy fans, so not to tell anyone they hugged me!

Never had I felt so welcomed, so accepted. I felt as though this was where I belonged. It was as if they were family I had never met.

The last time I had gone to church was, well, I couldn't remember. Maybe a Christmas Eve Mass years ago? I wasn't sure. My parents did not bring me up in the church.

When Mom and Dad moved to Las Vegas, Dad was invited to attend a men's Bible study at College Park Baptist Church. Shortly after that, Dad, at age 60, was born again. A bit later, at age 65, my mom also was born again. My parents were both excited to share their newfound experience with me.

I enjoyed the rest of the church service. The music was great. A full choir, their faces aglow, led the worship. It seemed everyone was full of smiles that day.

Throughout most of the sermon, Pastor Bob's face held a smile. Sometimes he would catch my eye, and it felt like he was speaking straight to me. He spoke that morning on the armor of God. He had my attention through the whole sermon.

As the service ended, several members of the choir, still in their robes, flocked toward me. I looked around to see where they might be going. They were all coming to greet my parents and me. Little did I know that Dad often sang in the choir, and they all wanted to meet me, his daughter. I thought they looked like a group of heavenly angels as their arms opened to hug me.

Finally, it was time to go home. Or so I thought. The next game started at 1:00. If we hurried, we could grab something to eat and head back to my parents' house to watch football. No such luck. Mom and Dad wanted me to go to their Bible study with them. Aargh. They would not let me take the car, go to the house, watch the game with my kid brother and then come back to get them at halftime. So, off I went to afternoon Bible study.

I quickly got over not being able to watch the game. The study had my attention. It was about God's son, Jesus, the man on the cross who died for the sins of the world. I was familiar with the cross, but I hadn't known the name of the man on it nor the significance of it.

I didn't get to watch any football that day. But I did meet a lot of nice people. The day at church did not go the way I thought it would. I thought we would get into arguments about homosexuality. No one brought it up. Surely they could tell I was butch. But they were so welcoming and loving, I saw no judgment nor did I feel any. I felt as I had never felt before—accepted.

Not long afterward the company I worked for promoted me to a regional executive position that would require me to travel all across the country each week. The CEO suggested that I move to Las Vegas. It made sense to move in with my parents rather than getting a place of my own, since I would only be home on the weekends. I could pay them rent. It was a win-win situation for us all.

Part of the arrangement was that my parents hoped I would join them at church each Sunday. They wanted me to experience the love, acceptance, and peace that they had from their new personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Since my first experience there was so enjoyable, I decided to give it a shot. I also noticed the difference in both of my parents since they had become Christians. They both seemed to have a peace that I had never noticed before. They still had issues, but they were somehow different. It was a good different.

According to God's Design

As I started attending CPBC, I learned more and more about God's love and about his Son, Jesus Christ. Many times in Bible study I would question what the Bible says about homosexuality, and they were always gentle in their answers. They told me they believed the Bible to be God's Word and that God did not create us to be homosexual. It was not according to his design. They then took me to the book of Genesis and showed how God created everything and how everything had an order. They said that God made the man and then the woman to be the man's companion, one complementing the other.

I would argue that the writers of the Bible either had something against homosexuals or that the Bible did not translate the words properly from the ancient language into our current day English. I argued that the writers did not know homosexuals as we are today. I argued that the word "homosexual" was not even in the original English Bible. I agreed that two men together sexually was not right, but I saw nothing unnatural with two women together sexually. Looking back, I do not know where these arguments came from, but they made sense to me at the time.

The folks at CPBC never initiated the discussion of homosexuality. It was always me who wanted to discuss it. They were more interested in my personal walk with God and my relationship with Jesus. Though they were concerned about my homosexuality, they explained that God would be the one to work on my homosexuality and my belief that God made me that way.

I learned much later that there were some who were not appreciative that the church showed so much love and acceptance toward me, the lesbian. Someone told me that some left the church. That saddened me. I hope those who left will come to see that the church was doing the right thing. They loved me with the love of Jesus Christ. They were compassionate truth-tellers, just like Jesus.

They were the people who talked to me about homosexuality by taking me deeper into the Word of God. They knew they could not argue me out of my homosexuality. The first matter at hand was to introduce me to Jesus Christ, to the Word of God, not to introduce me to heterosexuality.

Though I did not realize it at the time, I was in a huge spiritual battle that went on for at least a year, if not longer.

They could not argue me out of my homosexuality. The first matter was to introduce me to Jesus, not to heterosexuality.

Once I started going to church on a regular basis, it was as if every girlfriend, every lover, I had ever had contacted me by phone or came to visit me in Las Vegas. They tried to bring me back into a relationship with them.

I explained to each, as gently as I could, that something was going on with me, deep inside, and I was beginning to believe that perhaps homosexuality was not the right lifestyle. Even though it had been my identity for years.

A little more than a year after visiting the church, I came to Christ. I attended Bible studies, I sang in the choir, I was a part of these folks. They accepted me into their family.

They did not push the issue of my homosexuality. It was not an issue for them; they knew God would eventually take care of it.

And he did! The more I studied the Bible, the more my conviction grew. God and I stayed up long nights talking about homosexuality and why he made me this way if it was wrong. Slowly I heard his answers; slowly I came to realize homosexual behavior was wrong. I could not figure it out, but I knew I should not act out on my same-sex attractions. It was God speaking to me (not audibly), not the church telling me.

After being a new Christian for about a year, one Sunday night Pastor Bob preached on seven Bible passages that address homosexuality. The same passages that I had always believed the translators translated incorrectly or had nothing to do with lesbians now struck a different chord in me.

I realized when Pastor Bob gave the invitation that homosexual behavior was wrong, and God does not make us homosexual. I could barely walk down the aisle in order to publicly repent from my sin. I realized for the first time that for almost 20 years I had believed a lie.

Thank you, God, for helping my eyes to be open. Thank you, God, for your forgiveness!

Our Part, God's Work

It is because of this that I do believe a person can be in Christ and identify as gay, though one must eventually realize that homosexual behavior is inconsistent with a faithful relationship with Christ. It is a process! One does not come to Christ and then magically all your sinful desires and attitudes go away.

It takes time to recognize parts of your life are sin. It is essential but it takes time to admit the sin and turn away from it and toward God. This is not an easy process. There is a lot of struggle as you fight it. But at least for me, God takes it away a bit at a time.

It has taken 15 years for me to be completely healed of my same-sex attractions. It is a process that began one Sunday morning at College Park Baptist Church of Las Vegas.

CPBC accepted me just as I was when I walked through the door that Sunday morning, they loved me with the love of Jesus Christ with their compassionate truth-telling, and God used them to mend me, to mold me, and eventually send me out into ministry.

Charlene Hios is executive director of Bridging the Gaps Ministries in the San Francisco Bay area.
. It is a process that began one Sunday morning at College Park Baptind God used them to mend me, to mold me, and eventually send me out into ministry.

Charlene Hios is executive director of Bridging the Gaps Ministries in the San Francisco Bay area.
. It is a process that began one Sunday morning at College Park Baptist Church of Las Vegas. 
(College Park Baptist Church 2101 E. Owens North Las Vegas, NV 89030)

CPBC accepted me just as I was when I walked through the door that Sunday morning, they loved me with the love of Jesus Christ with their compassionate truth-telling, and God used them to mend me, to mold me, and eventually send me out into ministry.

st Church of Las Ve

CPBC accepted me just as I was when I walked through the door that Sunday morning, they loved me with the love of Jesus Christ with their compassionate truth-telling, and God used them to mend me, to mold me, and eventually send me out into ministry.

Charlene Hios is executive director of Bridging the Gaps Ministries in the San Francisco Bay area.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

THE SA CULTURE AND ETHICS Part Six Selective Transparency 1 B

An Anonymous comment referencing yesterday’s article on selective transparency took the words out of my mouth at 03:09 this morning, in Liverpool, as I concluded writing today’s follow up blog piece. Here’s a piece of that article…

I commented yesterday on Peter Drucker, the Austrian-born American management consultant, educator, and author, whose writings contributed to the philosophical and practical foundations of the modern business corporation. He is perhaps best known as the leader in the development of management education, and his invention of the concept known as ‘management by objectives’. And an outspoken admirer of the SA, USA- He wrote something which I often used in introducing business students to effective management, reminding them that a key strength lies in the unpaid resource faithfulness of their millions of committed volunteers. "The most effective organisation in America," said Peter Drucker,"is the Salvation Army. Not the most effective NGO, or not-for- profit ... the most effective organisation or business, anywhere, full stop.”

The most accurate measure is to actually look at – to study the way people behave – not what they tell you, but what they do. Critical and meaningful assessment can only come from those persons ‘who have walked, talked, laughed, cried and lived among them’.

Drucker, who died almost a decade, and as insightful and prophetic as he was, had only limited knowledge about the Internet or what it would become. There's little chance even he could have imagined how our lives would be affected since then, and continues to be, daily.

Thankfully many Drucker disciples continue to speak. “In many organizations”, says a Drucker Institute blogger, “there is a gap in terms of what the culture is as stated and what the culture is as actually lived. The influential piece of the culture to the largest extent is going to be the culture as it is lived, not the culture as it is stated,” he stresses.

Rich Barton, the co-founder of several companies that endeavor to make information as widely available as possible, and who also sits on the board of the lawyer- and doctor-review website Avvo, is a key avocate of transparency.

Barton says, “What I tell people is, if it can be . . . known it will be known,” While Barton’s efforts have been directly largely at the external marketplace it applies equally to the FSAOF’s internal focus. Just how transparent should the SA be with their own employees, officers, soldiers, adherents and supporters; the several millions who have pledged a mutually covenanted loyalty.

Would the information released by the several SA offices on the HH fiasco earn kudos from Drucker or be dismissed as disingenuous?

There are several levels of transparency requiring consideration here. The most basic is being clear on the SA’s mission, as well as the goals of each ministry/business unit. Greater transparency and potential for support occurs only when the reasons behind the mission goals are made clear and lived out daily, in concert, across borders, —for example, how they contribute to our organization’s core purpose.

Radical transparency goes even further, and can provide dignity, integrity and fairness, respecting. It includes opening up the financials, that part needed to stifle gossip, pundits, insider critics and even nosy outsiders. The Drucker Institute’s blog suggests that transparency is a most potent way to build trust among both employees and other stakeholders.

“The key breakdown”, says Peter Drucker, “is a lack of communication” —a problem that he well understood. “Balancing change and continuity requires continuous work on information,” he wrote. “Nothing disrupts continuity and corrupts relationships more than poor or unreliable information.”

The person, whose house is in a far-away land across the seas, has an amazingly familiar ring of logic and bush life familiarity wrote:

“A lot is being made of the corruption in Zimbabwe territory, and cited as part of the reason why Dr Thistle was "dismissed so summarily because of the broken human relationship between him and the Zimbabwean TC due to fiscal irregularities. The actions of Commissioner Chigariro were considered by senior leaders, including General Linda Bond and our new General, and found to be acceptable, given her cultural roots. She was not disciplined as far as we can see - just sidelined to another territory and also (inexplicably) given a (small) part in the election procedures of the new General - himself the child of a Zimbabwean upbringing, who again understands the culture of that country. And Major Dean Pallant, another 'child' of Zimbabwe, has been given a leading role in the 'investigation' of the whole issue. Surely even those at the top of the leadership can see how ‘incestuous’ this would appear to the outsider – 'insiders' can - and questions have already been asked as to how can they possibly have an impartial view? 

Again, much has been said about how their involvement has called into question their integrity and impartiality, but how can it not do so?

It is in the DNA of ordinary Salvationists to reach out to the marginalised, the hurt and the downtrodden – all those to whom life has dealt a painful hand - and it is the people of Chiweshe who hold our hearts in this saga – their lives not even considered by Christian leaders when they dismissed the doctor. 
So it is unfair to either of these officers, as well as to Dr Thistle and the community to have them remain so close to this deeply flawed investigation.

One has to ask, though, are they involved through personal choice, or appointed? If it is by personal choice, they are foolish indeed, because the emotions aroused through the continuation of this saga are not being assuaged by their continuing efforts. Indeed, to my mind they are making the situation worse.

My question is this - why, as a converted Christian, saved from sin and charged with being a Christian example to the flock, weren't the Commissioner's actions considered by the IHQ group according to biblical standards, and not by the cultural ethics of the country? That's how the New Testament church dealt with problematical issues and issues of church discipline. Surely we should all try to live by the standards Jesus taught, and not by what is secularly deemed to be acceptable?

Christianity should be beyond nationalism and its culture. We all live in what is largely a secular society, but we try to live by Christian rules. The Bible tells us we should be ‘in the world, but not of it’. There are things we just don’t do, because of our Christian witness.
And why, as a naturalised Zimbabwean, who also knew, loved and lived in the Zimbabwean culture, were the actions of Dr Thistle not given the same consideration as those of the Commissioner? It was he who called into question her integrity in this matter.

Did the IHQ 'huddle' give the Commissioner the nod because they love TSA more than they love the very standards for which we stand, and have they tried to protect the ‘organisation’ over its Christian tenets of faith? If so, we must continue to protest at what has been done in our name by our international leaders, and not rest until the 'organisation' is given its rightful place in our movement, far down the pecking order that the level at which we find it today.”

Comment to FSAOF Blog article; Tuesday, 29 October, 2013 

Sven Ljungholm

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

THE SA CULTURE AND ETHICS Part Six Selective Transparency 1A

A new and troubling term has become a tag line pronoun for an ever-increasing number of press releases floated out of the Obama White House. Please know up front that this article makes no judgment or comment on the US government or its policies. It’s only that the label applied by the President’s critics to the government’s carefully spun statements to their stakeholders could just as properly be applied to the SA’s infrequent statements, web posts and published articles referencing the Howard Hospital, Zimbabwe. It’s a new term suggesting one of two equally distasteful assumptions; selective transparency!
The stakeholders are apparently presumed by IHQ, and at least two THQs to be naïve, unread, moronic, stupidly loyal or indifferent. And sadly many may well be, and the spinmeisters have stepped on their rights to be honestly and fully informed.  We acknowledge that there is much internal information and deliberation that needs to remain confidential, but far too much has been concealed. Did SA leadership really expect that in this cyber space age their suggestion that all was serendipitous would be so easily swallowed? (more about this tomorrow)
Consequently, the rest of us, the FSAOF and others, have therefore an ever greater responsibility, as clearly evidenced these last few months, to continue our research, uncovering and hacking away through experts, former HH staff members, including eye witnesses on the ground, seeking to reveal just how overstated, slanted and selectively transparent the SA releases have been and continue to be.
Initially it was reasonable to assume that the FSAOF  “investigation” wouldn’t carry much weight, because in the eyes of the SA we could simply be appeased if the assurance of things returning to a state of normalcy came from the top. But did their ‘rank’ arrogance lead them to believe we’d accept that the removal of the only qualified surgeon at HH, without replacing his SA officer commitment and skilled hands in the operating theatre, would go unchallenged?
The need for certain internal information to remain confidential is self-evident.  What’s important is how the general information is shared with Salvationists and other concerned parties. It needs to be released without selective transparency in order that we be able to correctly interpret it. Are we comfortable with a SA leader and a cabinet that plays judge, jury, and executioner?  Do we believe that there should be a double ethical standard regarding SA practice?
Critical debate on the future of our Army rests in the information disclosed by our leaders and what our perspectives of them are. 
More will follow, but I would encourage anyone that might read this to keep in mind, as we move forward. the words of Peter Drucker, the highly respected corporate management guru, and who had great admiration for the SA’s corporate structured discipline: 'Every few hundred years throughout western history, a sharp transformation has occurred. In a matter of a decade, society altogether rearranges itself—its worldview, its basic values, its society and political structures, its arts, its key institutions. Fifty years later, a new world exists. And the people born into that world cannot even imagine the world in which their grandparents lived and into which their parents were born. Our age is such a period of transformation, signaled by the introduction of the knowledge society.'
Well, it’s fifty years later since I first came across Peter Drucker book on management, in my father’s library. The name’s relevance increase with the years and his books became required reading for students in many of the MBA courses I taught.

An oft repeated Drucker quote was: An “organization has to be transparent. People have to know and have to understand the organization structure they are supposed to work in. This sounds obvious— but it is far too often violated in most institutions.”

End Part 1A

Sven Ljungholm PhD
Corporate Ethics
Moscow State University

Monday, October 28, 2013


At the urgent and several month's old request of former Spanish speaking officers, a new regional group has been created, October 28, 2013.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Mythical "They"



When I was a sophomore in high school, I wrote a paper on “personal prejudices” for my teen leadership class. I chose to write about my unfair bias against kids who partied. (OH MY GOSH I WAS SUCH A SQUARE. Same girl who was voted “Most Inspirational” her senior year. I was a ton of fun in my teenage evangelical days.)

My teacher kept me after class and confessed something, as I was a varsity cheerleader. She admitted to stereotyping cheerleaders as long as she could remember; vacuous, slutty, mean girls, empty brains. We talked about my paper and my worldview in general, and she apologized for painting me with an unfair brush and promised to evaluate cheerleaders as individuals from then on. I promised to try and not be a judgmental weirdo and maybe only bring my Bible to class half the time. Bless my heart.

A few weeks ago, I spent two days with about 60 women from all over the country, all influential and strong in their respective niches. No one knew everyone, a few knew someone, and some knew no one. We encompassed the furthest left leaners to the staunchest right-wingers, complementarians and egalitarians, rebels and conservatives, pastors, musicians, writers, speakers, authors, artists, poets, catalyzers, marketplace leaders; all over the map, literally and spiritually.

We all held our breath in the days preceding; this was a lot of diversity, man. Some of these girls had come toe-to-toe online before. There were camps represented, people had big feelings, theology was not unanimous. Some barely got on the plane, nervous and unsure and prematurely defensive. We were all leaders; many cooks in the kitchen, hide the knives.

We hoped our love for Jesus and desperation for our generation would be enough.

We were right.

What transpired was the most beautiful, holy, healing gathering. I didn’t even have the courage to imagine it.The differences melted away; I can’t even remember what they were in the first place. Some pulled others aside and said, “I was wrong about you. Forgive me.” We washed each others' hands and shared communion and fell in love with one another.


It can be such a terrible word. They are all like that. They don’t get us. They are always _____. They are never _____. They are not our people. They are all the same. They all feel _____. They would never _____. The book is already written and them, and we can close it.

Do you know how often this is not true? Not even remotely true? The Mythical They creates straw men to disparage, propping up stereotypes and strengthening our prejudices while eliminating the actual work of relationships. It is the easy way out to be sure. We are excused from personal contact entirely, imagining ourselves as their victim or their target or their adversary. We can actually invent an entire conflict without speaking a solitary word to a live human.

How many of us have a secret nemesis? Women are particularly deft at harboring imaginary tension. She would never like me. I would totally hate her. She is the sum of the few parts I know about her. I heard she was _____. She is friends with/works for/goes to/believes that/affiliated with _____, so there is nothing else I need to know about her.

So rather than doing the grown up thing and actually talking or connecting or asking questions face to face, we hide behind The Mythical They and absolve ourselves of truthful discernment. Why have a potentially productive conversation when we can just make up a disastrous one in our heads? Oh sure, we may be entirely human and normal and nuanced, but certainly no one else is.

Let’s go here: How many of us refuse to walk into a church because they will all be _____ (cliquey, judgmental, mean, boring, holy). We see the church and say they. But here is a secret: all sorts of ordinary people just show up to church on Sunday. There is no they. It is just a collection of individual people who just lost their job or are going through a divorce or have a secret addiction or love Jesus like a fat kid loves cake or have no idea why they are there.

Reverse the scenario: If you snuck in the back door of a church and hid out on the back row, barely hanging on, and someone drove past the sanctuary and said, “Oh no. They are all _____ in there…” How unfair would that be? You’d stand up and say, NOT ME! You don’t know my story! If you only knew… Those are the same people under the steeples on Sundays.

There is no they.

I’ve done this. Of course I have. I imagine I know exactly the type of women I’ll be dealing with when I walk into a conference based on the venue, and I am wrong exactly every time. Because there is no they. No group of people is any one thing. Ever.

An 84-year-old woman sat next to me on the front row once, and I thought, wow, she is in the wrong place. I’m about to talk about justice and poor people and she is just here because she has been coming to conferences for eleventy billion years. I bet she falls asleep.

When I came off the stage, with tears pouring down her face, she grabbed my hands and said, “Everyone thinks I’m just an old lady and should sit in my pew and go gently into the white light, but I still have good years left, by God. I go to the prison four times a week. Those are my people. You are the first person who doesn’t think I’m crazy.”

There is no they.
It is immature and lazy to imagine we know everything there is to know about someone before we know that someone. We don’t know their stories, their histories, their real live human feelings. We don’t know their favorite movies and best memories and what makes them afraid. It is unfair to take one fact, one thing they’ve said or we heard they said, or one thing they wrote, or someone else’s experience, or a group they identify with and make a character sketch. If people did that to us, the picture would be so woefully incomplete, we wouldn’t even recognize our own description.

Is your they an individual? Have you invented a barrier based on anything but sustained personal connection? Maybe you think you know how someone will react or respond, but you could be as wrong about them as they are about you.

I suspect we misjudge people 90% of the time. Experience tells me I can sit down over coffee with almost any perceived adversary and end up laughing until my ribs ache. We were born on the same day, we both quit reading the same book halfway through, we are both worried about parenting, we both love Jesus even if we don’t agree on all the dressings. Common ground abounds.

Yes, some people are genuinely toxic or unhealthy, but we should draw those conclusions from personal experience, not hearsay or assumptions. I see a strategy for fracturing humanity well in play: just keep people separated and let them reinforce invented boundaries in their imaginations. Because when people come together and really listen to each other, doing the hard work of human kindness, virtually every barrier is breached. The entire mechanism is a house of cards; we can topple the structure with courage and trust and real discussions and grace for each other.

The Mythical They is a lie, and we can do better than this. Will you be brave? Do you need to pick up the phone or send an email and ask someone to coffee? Perhaps it’s time to stop painting a group with a wide brush and get close enough to see what those folks are actually like; you will never regret giving someone a chance, but you might forever regret carrying a fake grudge to your deathbed. Let’s refuse to buy into this horrid game. Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt, some actual time. We’ll listen and connect and try to understand each other like the People of Mercy we supposedly are.

It could just be the most beautiful, holy thing we do.

Who is your they? How have you felt? Is that real or mostly imagined or somewhere in between? What will you do?

Jen Hatmaker on October 17th, 2013

Friday, October 25, 2013

Why I preach an Arminian theology.

A Guest Post: “Three Reasons Why I Preach An Arminian Theology” 

I think it is fair to say that our contemporary Christian subculture is saturated in a Reformed theology.

This isn’t necessarily bad. Many of these voices hail from brilliant scholars whose knowledge and wisdom adds powerful depth and vibrancy to our understanding of God and scripture. D. A. Carson’s commentary on the New Testament use of the Hebrew Scriptures, for example, is always within reach when I dig through one of Paul’s epistles. The cultural reflections of The Gospel Coalition provide ready handles for grabbing hold of contemporary issues and thinking through them from a Christian perspective. Tim Challies has a powerful gift for breaking down complex theological ideas into easily accessible concepts. These voices add something of value to our modern Christian landscape.

At the same time, the sweeping move within Western Christianity to adopt a theological lens rooted in Calvinism means that other pieces of the puzzle — important pieces —are either left behind or left wanting.

As a pastor, I have found that proclaiming an Arminian theology to my congregation has become increasingly important amidst the growing influence of Reformed theology. Not only does Arminianism staunchly defend the character of a good and loving God, but it also retains the power of the Christian hope. In a world where hope is challenged by the repeated barrage of the suffering we see in the media, the beauty of the Christian message is sorely needed.

An Arminian understanding retains this hope, and it does so on three levels.

1. Hope For Our World
Rather than a marked selection of individuals chosen by God to one day leave earth behind and step into a heavenly kingdom, Arminianism presents a God whose kingdom is invading our world even as we speak. This is part of the glory of Christianity — that when Jesus arose from the waters of His baptism proclaiming that “the kingdom of God is at hand”, He meant what He said. Our world is a broken place, afflicted with the realities of suffering and pain, but the Spirit that hovered over the waters in Genesis 1 still broods over His creation. What we find is a hope for the present, a restoration that begins now, and a God who invites us into the midst of His work.

2. Hope For Our Communities
The Reformed doctrine of Unconditional Election paints a stark picture when faced with those who do not yet know Christ. If God chooses some for salvation and not others, the parallel implication is that He thus rejects some and not others. Hope languishes in the face of an unchanging God that has chosen to reject from salvation some of the very people we have come to love. An Arminian perspective addresses this, however, removing that rejection from God and placing it where it belongs: in the human heart. The beauty of this is that such a rejection is not yet final. While God is unchanging, we are not. God is still working, still extending His grace, still inviting our friends and family to respond to His love. This imparts to us a responsibility to make that love known, but it also fills us with hope in knowing that just as He wooed us, so is He wooing them. They, too, have the opportunity to respond to the grace that He so lovingly extends to all.

3. Hope For Ourselves
Perhaps the most beautiful aspect of Arminian theology is found in the broader concept of salvation. To us, salvation is so much more than those slated for heaven and those abandoned to hell. Instead, salvation is about life — abundant life — that begins here and extends forth into eternity. What we are being rescued from is not just eternal condemnation, but sin itself. Sin, left unchecked, will ultimately consume and destroy us. The beauty of grace, however, is that these chains are slowly being stripped from our soul. This is the image of sanctification to which we cling: that we are progressively being freed from those very things which rob us of our own humanity. Freedom does not wait until the kingdom of God is manifested in the eschaton. It begins now, transforming and shaping us, and leading us on into the eternity where our glorious hope shall finally be viewed in full.

This is why I preach an Arminian theology. It is not only because I hold it to be true, but because I believe it to be necessary. In an era where the objects of our hope are challenged on a daily basis, we need to be reminded that God is still here. He is still working. He is still restoring. He is still loving and extending His grace.

It is in his grace where our hope finds wings.

T. E. Hanna

You can email me at
I’m also the author of the upcoming book Raising Ephesus: Christian Hope for a Post-Christian Age and the accompanying five-booklet devotional series Ancient Faith for a Modern World. I’m giving the devotional series away as a free gift to the community here at Of Dust & Kings, so be sure to subscribe in the email box below. Let’s get acquainted!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Gender-Based Abortions Spark Outrage In England


Gender-Based Abortions Spark Outrage In England As Sex Selection Becomes An Option

CANTERBURY, England (RNS) A group of Christian lawyers plans to sue two medical doctors who have raised a storm of controversy for arranging the abortion of female fetuses because the parents wanted boys.

Andrea Williams, CEO of the London-based Christian Concern, said her group would file suit against the doctors since the government declined to charge them.
In an Oct. 7 letter to the attorney general, Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer said the Abortion Act of 1967 “does not expressly prohibit gender specific abortions.”

Starmer said the only basis for a prosecution would be that the doctors failed to carry out “a sufficiently robust assessment” of their patient’s health.

Disclosures that women were being granted abortions based on the sex of their fetuses followed an undercover investigation by the Daily Telegraph in February last year.

The media group secretly filmed doctors agreeing to terminate fetuses for sex selection purposes.

Responses to the media reports were swift.

“I am extremely concerned to hear about these allegations,” said Andrew Lansley, a former health secretary. “Sex selection is illegal and is morally wrong. I’ve asked my officials to investigate this as a matter of urgency.”

On Oct. 9, a one-day debate on the subject was held in Parliament. David Burrowes, a Conservative Parliament member, told colleagues that “gendercide” is now a worldwide issue.

Referring to Starmer’s decision not to prosecute the two doctors, Burrowes said the 1967 Abortion Act needed clarification.

“There is a lack of transparent information and no real safeguards,” he said. “It is up to Parliament to deal with that.”

In a statement Oct.10, a spokesperson for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales said: ”People are right to be outraged that some parents are seeking to use abortion as a means of gender selection. It is the worst form of discrimination to kill a baby because she is the ‘wrong’ gender.”

Religion News Service  By Trevor Grundy