To the Presbyterians Meeting In My Hometown.

This column was also published on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum.

On June 20th the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) will convene its biannual meeting in San Jose. For the following nine days something like five thousand Presbyterians will be in my hometown, working, arguing, worshiping, and partying.

When the General Assembly meets this year I’ll have a front row seat because I have the odd distinction of being the Presbyterian Minister of Word and Sacrament who lives closest to the convention. This is not an accomplishment that makes me eligible for any kind of recognition or honor. I’m not even going to get a tee shirt, let alone fifteen minutes in a pulpit at one of the Assembly’s several worship services, but if my proximity awarded me the opportunity to address the General Assembly of the PC(USA) I’d remind those gathered to be inspired by our Calvinist tradition and set aside any talk of schism.

Like the Episcopalians and just about every other mainline Protestant group, we Presbyterians are freaking out over sex. Some of us want to welcome Gay and Lesbian Christians into the life and leadership of our denomination. Other Presbyterians have a hard time using the words “Gay and Lesbian” in the same sentence as “Christian,” and would rather leave the denomination than keep fellowship with a church that ordains gays and lesbians to positions of leadership and which confers the blessings of God Almighty upon their connubial relationships.

It already is the case that no person may be denied membership in a Presbyterian Church because of sexual orientation; in time I suspect that Presbyterian churches will come to ordain gays and lesbians and will bless same-sex marriages. I say this not out of any particular insights about the current state of our denomination but because the arc of Presbyterian history bends toward inclusion. Those who are familiar with the trajectory of the denomination’s historical arc—and dislike the eventual destination—are choosing to leave the denomination. Large quantities of individuals are walking away from the faith communities in which they were baptized; whole congregations are finding new denominational affiliations.

There’s an interesting twist in all of this: many of the folks who are leaving the Presbyterian church do so appealing to history and to tradition, and yet John Calvin, the very grandfather of the Presbyterian Tradition, would have been horrified by the divisions, and in Presbyterian circles you don’t get much more traditional than John Calvin.

On a recent trip to Geneva, I read one of John Calvin’s sermons while sitting at the foot of the pulpit from whence it was preached. I was astonished to find that this four-hundred-and-fifty-year-old sermon could have—and probably should have—been preached to contemporary American Presbyterians.

In the sermon, Calvin looks at 2 Timothy 2:20-21, in which St. Paul compares the members of the church to the dishes in a great house. In a great house, Paul points out, there are the good dishes and the bad dishes. In the great house that is my condominium in East San Jose, we call them the every-day dishes and the “wedding dishes that you may not use for your breakfast cereal, even if you are very careful and promise not to drop them.”

You probably have those dishes too.

Calvin points out that while St. Paul suggests that everyone of us should strive to be one of those honorable vessels, nowhere is it suggested that the good dishes should walk out of the house just because there are everyday dishes in the cupboard; even if the dish runs away with the spoon and they want their love to be recognized by the rest of the plates, cups, bowls, and flatware, (who are horrified and are working to amend the state’s constitution to forbid such sport) the dishes belong to the master of the house. They don’t get to leave.

Calvin writes,

If there be wicked men and hypocrites in the church of God, who continue among us for a season and are highly esteemed, it must not trouble us, for the house of God is great…Although we might wish for nothing but purity in the church of God, for nothing that could be found fault with, yet notwithstanding, we must expect to see stumbling blocks. And why so? Because God assembleth together a great variety of vessels. (The Mystery of Godliness And Other Selected Sermons by John Calvin. Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950. p. 144)

It gets better. Later in the sermon Calvin notes,

St. Paul meant to show us here that although the wicked endeavor to bring the name of God into reproach and dishonor, they cease not to serve his glory… We must not think that because we see these disorders in the church of God that it is utterly destroyed, that our Lord Jesus Christ is able to do no more; but rather consider that although the wicked disfigure the beauty of the church, although they defile and pollute it, yet notwithstanding, God will be glorified. (The Mystery of Godliness And Other Selected Sermons, p. 147)

There is, of course, a rich irony here: John Calvin was perfectly happy to lead one of the biggest religious schisms in the history of the world when he left the Roman Catholic Church, and he was converted to the idea that the wicked don’t destroy the church only after he was the leader of a great movement. Nonetheless, he makes a very good point.

In the Bible there is no suggestion that it is OK for people intentionally to break communion with their communities of faith. There is plenty discussion about kicking people out, but there is none that suggests that breaking fellowship with one’s community is a righteous option. Disagreements about doctrine and theology aren’t enough to excuse the kind of leave-taking that’s happening in some corners of our denomination. At least not according to John Calvin and St. Paul.

And I take comfort in this because many of the Presbyterians who are leaving our denomination are doing so because of people like me, people who want very much to include gays and lesbians in the life and leadership of the church. And there’s always the possibility that they’re right, that the convictions I hold make me something like the chipped, worn and stained dishes my family uses for our everyday meals, while the righteous rest safely in the sideboard.

What draws me to the sermon by John Calvin which I first read in the Cathedral de Sainte Pierre in Geneva is this: even if I get it wrong, God still will be glorified.

And that’s a good way to end the thoughts I wish I could preach to the gathered General Assembly: God will be glorified. Even if our denomination gets a few things wrong over the course of the General Assembly’s meeting, even if we make a mess of things, still God will be glorified, and there will be no reason for any Presbyterian to leave our denomination, because the Presbyterian Church is but one small part of the house of God, and the house of God is great.

20 thoughts on “To the Presbyterians Meeting In My Hometown.

  1. Pingback: According To John » Blog Archive » To the Presbyterians Meeting In My Hometown.

  2. This is a sermon by the same guy who had Michael Servetus executed for his heresy on the issue of the Trinity. Interesting!!! How does that fit with our “arc toward inclusion”?

    Oh, we [today] promote Calvin when it comes to discussion about separation but we sing the praises of “reformed yet always reforming” notice we leave off the rest of the quotation “according to the Word of God” and hail heresy’s which carried the death sentence in the 1500’s.
    Perhaps the heretical left should be the ones to be leaving. I do not promote stoning, burning at the stake or any such punishment [although 40 hours of CSPAN might be justified] for the heretics in our midst but if you are arguing that Calvin was accepting of the type and depth of heresy present in our denomination you needed to spend more time in Geneva.

    Alan Wilkerson
    Portland, OR

  3. Alan,

    Thanks for your thoughts. Keep in mind that Servetus was executed at the beginning of the Presbyterian Arc toward inclusion.

    The case of Servitus is an interesting one. A close reading of the history will show that in Geneva Calvin had no power to execute anyone–he couldn’t even vote in Geneva as he was not a citizen of Geneva. Servitus was executed by the Genevan city fathers at a time when Calvin was on the outs with the city government. This isn’t to say that Calvin wasn’t just as happy to see Servetus go up in smoke, but one should be accurate historically.

    It’s also interesting to note that during the reformation period, people were getting killed all over the place for lots of very minor heresies. Certainly the Catholics were killing protestants, and the followers of Luther and Zwingli were, at times, ruthless (Zwingli was particularly harsh on Antibaptists). In Geneva Servetus was the only person executed during this period of history. So by comparison to the rest of Europe the Geneva of Calvin’s day was fairly inclusive.

    And I have spent a lot of time in Geneva, and would love to spend more, even if it turned me into an “old school” Calvinist! But it doesn’t. I find myself down beneath the St. Pierre Cathederal, looking at the recently excavated Pagan shrine upon which that marvelous edifice was constructed and I realize that there is so much that I do not know.

    As to the heretical being kicked out of the PCUSA (or being forced to watch c-Span) I don’t want to do either one, but it would be more in keeping with scripture for you to force me out of the PCUSA (or in front of the tube) than for you to leave. That is, by the way, “according to the word of God” by which we are reformed and always reforming.

    Best,

    Ben

  4. Ben,

    Thanks for an interesting post. Perhaps we’ll get to meet at GA. Reading Calvin’s sermons can be a tremendous blessing, and I thank you for reflecting on this one. I rarely comment on blogs, but I guess I’m in the mood. Here are a couple thoughts that might be worth considering:

    1) Your exhortation re: following in the Calvinian tradition seems to rest on the idea that there are really just two options: first, some are striving for a pure church and separating from the denomination when there are signs of impurity, and second, some are accepting inclusivity and what others consider impurity, realizing that even if they’re wrong God can still be glorified in an impure church. There are, of course, other options, especially the one Calvin took, which I would summarize by saying that he was striving for a more pure church, yet realizing the church would never be “pure” this side of the eschaton, and so resting in God’s grace and trusting that God will work in and through an impure church for his own glory. In other words, two foundational points are put together that neither of your options seems to allow for: 1) striving to honor God by following his will as best as we understand it, including respecting boundaries that God has given us for our personal and corporate lives, i.e. in the context of this discussion that includes “pursuing purity” in sexual relationships, and 2) recognizing that this effort to honor God and allow ourselves to be transformed by his sanctifying grace will always remain incomplete, and that there is no such thing in this epoch of redemptive history as a pure visible church. The two points go together. So, I think our Presbyterian tradition, following Calvin, would encourage us to both pursue purity and to have humility in the face of our current embeddedness in sin and thus have great patience in the midst of a struggling church, living within the unity that is a gift of God in Christ even with great cost to ourselves. For me and many others like me, this leads us to both support our denomination’s traditional understanding of Scripture (which is in sync with the vast majority of Christians in the world) regarding the proper boundaries for sexual behavior, as well as to continue laboring within this denomination as long as we are free to be faithful. In short, I think your options present an unfortunate and unnecessary dichotomy and reflect our current polarized political “war,” and in my view they don’t reflect the position of Calvin. For a prayer from Calvin that reflects this tension, check GA2008.COM, look in the left side-bar for “Prayer for GA” and that link will take you to the prayer with which Calvin closed his lecture on Micah 6:8, the theme verse of this General Assembly. He prays that God would help us to both follow his commands and receive his mercy — they go together.

    2) On the provocative idea that Calvin just might favor the inclusivist side of your dichotomy: in addition to the thought above, of course it’s just not sufficient to appeal to an abstract notion of “inclusivity”, find resonances in Calvin, and then insert our 21st century notion of inclusivity, and therefore find Calvin on the side of modern inclusivists. I’m afraid that’s guilty of more than a small anachronism.

    3) On the idea that Calvin came late to the idea of the church’s impurity: I’m not aware of any evidence that Calvin “was converted to the idea that the wicked don’t destroy the church only after he was the leader of a great movement.” Your point here seems to presume that Calvin with his later view, with a “high ecclesiology,” would never have left the Roman Catholic Church if he had to do it over again. But, as you may know, Calvin’s anti-Roman rhetoric grew stronger as his theological thought developed, not weaker. One key to understanding Calvin’s ecclesiology is to think through how, for him, the fact that the “wicked don’t destroy the church” fits together with his believing that the Roman church was no longer a true church. In truth, this is a basic tension in all Protestant ecclesiology (and my first point above gets at the heart of one aspect of this). If we dissolve this tension, we not only can’t appeal to Calvin, but we should probably all return to Rome. Which leads me to…

    4) You mentioned that Calvin led a great “schism.” Well, of course, if that were true — if he were schismatic — then we really should return to Rome. Protestants who lift up as an axiom the need to acquiesce into the purposeful impurity of the church do effectively under-cut just about any theological justification for separation. My guess is this is not your intention. Or, put somewhat differently, my guess is that many lifting up such an axiom are not doing so for theological reasons but rather for particular, contextual political and social reasons, and these same reasons wouldn’t permit them to return to Rome, because the Roman church is viewed as politically and socially too conservative. At the heart of your argument, I’m suggesting, are your somewhat independently determined social positions and how you hope they might be made a reality in the PC(USA), rather than Reformed ecclesiology being at the heart, which is the basis of your post on the surface.

    I appreciate your last paragraph very much.

    Apologies for being much more lengthy than I intended. I wish you all the best and hope for continued and spirited conversation.

    -Michael

  5. Michael,

    Thanks for your thoughtful post. I’ll need more time to digest it, but here are a few initial responses:

    1)In my piece I wanted to show that Calvin was against church schisms and that this aversion was rooted in scripture. I didn’t mean to suggest a limit in they ways people might live faithfully together in the church. In fact I agree that we should seek purity and faithfulness while remaining in community. I happen to believe that a pure and faithful church necessarily includes Gays and Lesbians in the pulpit and at the chancel exchanging wedding vows. (How I square this with my deep commitment to scripture is something we’ll have to address later–perhaps over coffee when you’re in town for the GA).

    2)I don’t for one minute imagine that Calvin would be welcoming of Gays and Lesbians, but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t have good ideas about church unity.

    3)I don’t know what to call the Reformation if not a schism.
    This puts me in a funny place, because I’m very happy not to be a Roman Catholic (or an Orthodox Christian for that matter). All I can say is that you and I are responsible for our own faithfulness and not for the faithfulness of our fathers and mothers.

    If Calvin ever wrestled with the irony involving his participation in the reformation and his opposition to schism, I don’t know about it (but I’d love to).

    4) I have wrestled with when I think leaving the church is a righteous option, and I think there are good reasons to leave the church. Individuals should not stay in a congregation in which they are spiritually (or sexually or physically) abused, for example, and I admire the confessing churches in Germany who refused to go along with the EKD’s Naziism during the 1930’s. It’s an unanswered question, and I’ll happily own the loose ends here. It’s messy, but I believe it is more than safe to say that welcoming Gays and Lesbians is not an abusive thing to do, and it certainly is not to be equated with Naziism. After all Nazis were hardly rallying around the rainbow flag.

    Please use the “contact me” option on my website to get in touch with me when you’re in town for GA. Maybe we can get a cup of coffee. I’ll take you to a good locals’ spot.

    Best,

    Ben

  6. Ben,
    What a daring thing you did in citing something from Calvin’s work as non-threatening and even inspiring to your/our inclusive vision of the Church in the Reformed Tradition! It is not surprising that folks with views of the Reformed Church differing from yours have and will push back on that act of pious daring. It would be quite common to assume that if Calvin insires one person to one viewpoint, the “real” Calvin could not possibly inspire you to different conclusions.

    Michael chides you for posing a false dichotomy (which I don’t see in your piece), but then leaves me with the impression that he believes the reading of and reflection on Calvin’s work will result in many wrong but only one right set of understandings. That seems to me to be something of a false dichotomy itself.

    I think Alan missed one of your main points, i.e., that striving to purify the Church is defensible, while leaving her because she is not pure is probably not. I’m glad you didn’t take the bait on the “heretical left” hook he threw out. But were I in your place I would have also refrained from trying to rehabilitate Calvin’s performance in the Servetus affair by portraying him as politically impotent at the time. He had influence enough in the matter, and it is – or ought to be – enough that he had much to say in his life which is inspirational even today – without covering for any of his faults.

    John

  7. nice sermon, ben. I would love to comment on it more thoroughly, but I am exhausted from all this youth ministry… *sigh*… i will say though that my heart is there.

  8. You’re a gutsy guy, Ben, and you back up your positions with some
    interesting and respected opinions. Too bad you can’t be more
    than the Presbyterian Minister geographically closest to where
    the General Assembly is being held. Look for my friend, Beverly Brewster. She just graduated from San Francisco Seminary and
    interned here at Knox Pres. in Santa Rosa. She will be at the
    booth, or one of the booths, promoting peace and justice for the
    Palestinians. She left a lucrative law practice to become a
    Presbyterian minister. You’ll like her.

  9. Judy, John, and Sarah,

    Thanks for your posts and for your support. Judy, I will look out for Beverly Brewster. Sarah, I will pray for you and all youth workers!

    John, Recently, I’ve been interested in reclaiming John Calvin as an inspiration for my progressive inclinations. Much of what Calvin says annoys me to be sure, but he also has some really great ideas, stuff that really resonates with me.

    Best,

    Ben

  10. For another prespective on schism:

    “So now what do we do? We had better do some hard thinking. I think it is time for someone to say out loud that division is not the worst thing that could happen. We Presbyterians have survived past divisions, Old and New Sides and Old and New Schools and been able to reunite after the heat died down. Moderates in the Southern Baptist Convention waited too long before they woke up. We need a strategy for how we can divide, leave the denomination peacefully, with our property and some institutions, even if we are a minority. Could, for example, a whole presbytery or synod leave? Five years ago, I thought we should have made it easier for the right wing to leave, even whole presbyteries. Now, the issue has reversed. I really do not believe that progressives are any longer in the majority. I believe that faithfulness is more important than unity, as those on the right have been saying.”

    Dr Howard Rice

  11. Al,

    Thanks for posting that quote form Howard Rice. I like and admire Howard Rice quite a lot. I don’t agree with him on this one.

    Ben

  12. Ben, thanks very much for your response to my comment. Conversation over coffee at some point during GA sounds great. I’m glad you received my comment as a conversation-starter, not an ender.

    (Perhaps we can come up with a “word” for the Reformation that we agree on, other than schism:). It was certainly a rupture in the visible church. I’m being a picky historian, using the term in the context of the history of doctrine — but it’s a weighty matter, too. Good fodder table talk.)

    -Michael

  13. I believe that our denomination’s ownership of the local church property and the pension plan are the two strongest arguments for Church Unity among Presbys. We can always found reasons to leave the denomination. At one time the Cumberland Presbys left because we demanded seminary education for our Teaching Elders. The only real question about separation is “Are you willing to pay the price of separation?” It’s not really separation unless it costs you something.

    Our congregation made the decison to publicly welcome Gays and Lesbians into the membership of the church a few years ago, and lo and behold, they are coming in droves and what a difference they make to our church life. Now we have more men in the congregation than women. The hymn singing reminds me of my Seminary days when we all sang with a strong shot of testosterone and only a few women sat in the back pew. Stewardship is no longer a problem. Most gay couple housholds have two salaries and little college expenses for their kids. We now have a Woman’s group, a Men’s Group and a very interesting Couple’s group. Most of our gay couples were raised in our church….but when their sexuality became evident, they were pushed out by those who declared them unclean. It’s a new day in our congregation. God seems to be blessing the new inclusiveness. Time will tell.

    Ben, do you remember Tom and Vernon? They were my first experience with ordained Gay Christians in our church. And what a difference they made in your childhood church. They were a blessing to me and our common mission. I remember one day when several members of our congregation, who read their Bibles to exclude homosexuals from the church and especially places of leadership, as if they were lepers came to me. They demanded that I do something about “the problem.” I told them our Gay brothers were doing the work of Christ and and as best I could tell, the Spirit of God was evident in their good works. I concluded with “If they are asked to go, I go with them.” Much to my surprise, this ended the quest for expulsion.

    I wish that those in our Church who are spending so much time tryng to keep some folks in the back of the Church bus, would spend their energies on Marriage Enrichment for those hetero-sexual couples who need help in maintaining their marriage covenants and giving our youth some solid pre-marital counseling. We have such bad press over our in-fighting at this time, that it is difficult to get people to attend our services. We must move away from defining ourselves by what we are against to proclaiming what we were counseled to do: proclaim the good news of new life in Jesus Christ!

  14. Ronn,

    I remember Tom and Vernon very well. I think they may be responsible, in some way, for my feelings about Gays and Lesbians in the Church. I remember that Tom used to bring shut-ins to church in his big, green land yacht of a car. I also seem to remember that Vernon used to help Charlie Swhela in the garden. My memory is foggy–a bit like a summer morning in Mendocino–but the memories are good.

    Tom and Vernon did nothing to diminish my faith or my faithfulness, in fact they were part of the church family that raised me and they remain part of the cloud of witnesses that surrounds me.

    Thank you for giving them the Pastoral welcome they deserved.

    Ben

  15. Dear Ben,
    I am glad that Ronn sent me this missive. It deals with a subject that has torn me apart for years…and, at the end, mentions our dearly beloved Vernon and Tom. I think there were times when our church would have fallen apart if it weren’t for the efforts of Vernon.& quiet sweetness of Tom. I have many friends in the gay community and now one of them sits with me in church, since he has come to Christ.

    The big hurdle here, is not if a person is gay. It is, if they are practicing or not. I remember, back in the mid seventies, when I was on the evangelism committee, that I said something at a meeting, and immediately, Ronn told me I was gossiping and to stop. I felt I had received a huge slap on my face, but I have been so grateful for that slap, I can’t even relate the magitude that it had on my life. It was a perfect reprimand for the sin I had committed.

    If a person were preaching to me from the pulpit and was an open and practicing gossiper, I would be horrified. The same goes for any other sin where there is no repentance. If we are truly repentant and do our best not to commit the sin again; that is a whole different ball of wax. There is not a one of us that doesn’t commit sin. Thank God for his grace, through Jesus Christ, that we can go through Him and be forgiven.

    Ronn gave us a sermon years ago on the Ten Commandments. The one about keeping the Sabbath Holy hit every single one of us in the pews. I have to admit, that when I go into the market on a Sunday, for my own stomach……not doing the Lords’ work, I feel like a very bad child sneaking behind her mama’s back to sneak something I shouldn’t. Yeh. It’s easy to blame our society on our sins. Everybody else does it, don’t they? Look at sports? How can you not support your kid if they’re performing or playing on the Sabbath? Don’t I perform in shows on Sunday?

    Uh uh. No. It just won’t cut it anymore. I have gotten to the point where I see Satan smiling a huge, wolflike grin. “I’ve gotcha!”, he says. Yeh. He does.

    The Merrily that was repremanded has been in prayer since that incident back in the mid 70’s. I began praying for two things on a daily basis. To be less judgemental and more patient. Now, you know, when you pray for these, you will be tried unbelievably, and I sure have been…to the point where I wanted to take back the prayer and not pray it anymore. But, the big Guy laid it on my heart and I couldn’t stop. But over the last 30 plus years, I can truly say that the Refiners fire has not only been very much at work, but has been very successful. Oh, no….I’m not saying I’m there yet…I never will be,…but on a scale of 1 to 10, I think I’m around an 8 now. To say that I’m a work in progress, is putting it lightly.

    Why do I bring this up? It gets back to sin. All sin is horrible to the Lord. How do we put a person in the shepherds’ spot that is blatantly committing sin or marry a couple that will be, and they’re not only nonrepentent of it, but asking the Lord to condone and bless it? We don’t get to go through our Bible and throw out all those passages we don’t like. No options here. It would be so much easier for us if someone had asked the question about sodomy of Jesus, wouldn’t it? Then, we wouldn’t be tested today on this subject. As much as I want to run from it and as much as I love my gay friends, I would love for this subject to take a deep six. I’m not that lucky. It is now in our faces and we can’t run away from it any longer. So, here we are.

    We either believe in the Word of God, or not. Is society and political correctness our God, or is God our God. As painful as it may be, and it is; God and His Word are first. All I can do is to love the sinner and not the sin. We can only hope that the Word will rub off on all it reaches. It all winds up being between us and God, in the end. In the meantime, our churches have to lead the way to righteousness. May God have mercy on our souls if we blatantly lead people away from His word.

    I haven’t a clue as to whether or not Vernon and Tom were actively practicing their sexuality or not. But I do know that they were men who practiced love. If, say Tom, wantd to be a minister, I would hope that he refrain from being sexually active, since that is the no, no.

    Does God create homosexuals so this will be a hurdle in their lives to overcome? Someday, in heaven, we’ll get to know the answer to this question. In the meantime, we have to do our best. I praise and thank God for this wonderful Bible. As much as I fall short of keeping the commandments, I am still trying and my ‘slips’ are fewer every year. I know the temptation of leaning on Paul’s letter to the Corinthians and put all our emphasis on love……..but it still doesn’t get us off the hook.

    Sent with much love, Merrily

  16. Merrily! How sweet to have a comment from you! (A note to my readers: the first time I wore a robe in church, I was singing in a children’s choir and Merrily was the director. No doubt Tom and Vernon were in the service.)

    In the end, I think we have to ask a hard question: is it sinful for people of the same sex to be physically intimate? I’ve come to the conclusion that it is not. It took a long time for me to allow myself to express this belief openly, but it is what I believe.

    In the end, I’ve decided that the Bible is not a very good sex manual. The fist two chapters of Genesis offer a fairly traditional (by our standards) vision of human coupling, but other parts of the Bible suggest and celebrate modes of sexual behavior that are completely out of line by modern standards (even and perhaps especially to the most ardent of fundamentalists). For example, we find in the books of Moses that it is acceptable and perhaps expected that a man will have sex with the maidservants in his house. Deuteronomy 22 mandates that when a virgin is raped she must marry her attacker. Abraham and Sarah were half-siblings (and, at one point Abraham pimps his wife/sister to the king of Egypt). Tamar seduces her father-in-law and Lot is seduced by his daughters without condemnation. The Bible is full of plural marriage. And here’s the thing: none of these behaviors that you and I would abhor is condemned in scripture. So I have to believe that the Bible’s message on human sexuality has to be different than what has traditionally been taught.

    Anyway, these are tough issues and it’s important to talk through them. As we do, we have to remember what unifies us: God’s grace and our love for Christ. If we get that down, we’ll be all right.

    And since you are from my Mendocino tribe I’ll sign off by saying,

    “Onward through the fog!”

    Affectionately,

    Ben

  17. Ah, My Sweet Ben,

    It’s been too long since you’ve lived here………We’ve only had one foggy day so far this year. Today, it’s hot and sunny. What July and August are famous for is OVERCAST. Which, might be a good title for what we’re dealing with here……….Onward through the overcast…..

    xoxox, Merrily

  18. I’ll go with that: “Onward through the overcast!” it is…

    Or maybe “Onward under the overcast!”

    BD

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