Sunday, December 20, 2009

Grace Church Wedding

Thanks to Jean and Tom Morris, who shared these photos of Jim celebrating the wedding of their son Adam and bride Katie this past year.

This, of course, is our favorite, at the reception before saying grace - Fr. Jim as only he could be, master of ceremonies and sometimes stand-up comic.

More reception photos in black and white:

(ok, the dress did not fit anymore - why didn't he tell me???? - but never mind, someone actually captured on film how I felt about da guy)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Offering of the Priesthood

Sermon given by Fr. Jim Jensen for the ordination of Fr. Jim Heidt (December 2007):

If ever there was a day for which fervent prayers of petition and intercession had been offered, certainly it’s today. And if perseverance is any measure of vocation, then there should be no doubt about the vocation of Jim Heidt.

The journey to this day took a few detours. Those detours stand as a cogent reminder of one of the reasons that discerning God’s will can be difficult. It’s because God often shapes and molds us in ways we would avoid, if given a choice.

But, here we are. We have come together in joy and thanksgiving, to join with our Bishop as he ordains Jim a priest in Christ’s Holy Catholic Church. As we prepare to do that, I believe it’s wise for us to pause for a moment to consider just what that priesthood is about.

The Catechism of the Book of Common Prayer tells us that the ministry of a priest is... represent Christ and his Church, particularly as pastor to the people; to share with the bishop in the overseeing of the Church; to proclaim the Gospel; to administer the sacraments; and to bless and declare pardon in the name of God.

In the ordination liturgy, following the laying-on-of hands, the Prayer Book directs that the ordinand be presented with a Bible, “ a sign of the authority given... to preach the Word of God....” Thirty-five years ago when I was ordained in the Diocese of Milwaukee, it was customary for the Bishop to present, along with the Bible, a chalice and paten as a sign of the priest’s authority to administer the sacraments, and, in particular, to celebrate the Holy Eucharist. This was referred to as the “delivery of the instruments’--- the instruments of priestly ministry. We used to joke about it, observing that if you considered the daily life of
most parish priests, it would be more fitting for the bishop to present a toilet plunger and a broom. Which is simply to say that ministry is one of those areas of life where there is often some incongruity between theory and practice. It’s just a plain fact of life that parish priests spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with matters that have nothing to do with priesthood.

But we come here today in the midst of Advent— a season of hope and expectation— so let us pray that the ideal is still something for which we can strive, and that it can, by God’s grace inspire Jim’s commitment, and ours as well, to the Church’s mission: to restore all people to God and to each other in Jesus Christ.

As I was thinking and praying about this sermon, there were two passages of scripture that came to mind. The first is found in the 20th chapter of Luke’s Gospel. It is the Lord’s admonition to: “Beware of [those] who like to walk around in long robes....” Clergy can be prone both to vanity and over-sized egos. The fact that we get to wear the fancy clothes and occupy the most prominent seats in the house doesn’t help in that regard. It’s but one of the reasons we need to remember that it is baptismal ministry that is primary and basic to the life of the Church, and it is only when and where clergy and laity both believe and embrace that truth that the mission of the Church can be advanced. Those of us who are ordained, while exercising ministries that are essential to the Church’s life, do so to support and empower the ministry of the all the baptized, the vast majority of whom are lay people. Without them, our ministries have neither context nor purpose.

The other passage, found in the 21st chapter of Luke, centers on the Lord’s description of a poor widow who comes to make her offering at the Temple. It’s a small offering— we usually call it the widow’s mite— and Jesus’ observes that while others had given out of their abundance, this widow gave out of her poverty. I believe there is truth here that has everything to do with ministry and priesthood.

Priesthood is about the offering of sacrifice. In the Old Testament it was the priesthood of the Temple, and it offered animal sacrifice. Keep in mind, however, that it was not the slaying of the animal that was at the heart of the sacrifice, but rather the offering of life to God; the slaughter was simply a necessary prerequisite. It was the offering of life, represented in the animal’s blood, that constituted the sacrifice.

For Christians, Jesus made a monumental and crucial change in all that. He offered himself. As the letter to the Hebrews reminds us:

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation, he entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. (Heb. 9:11ff NAB)

Priesthood has to do with the offering of sacrifice; but what we are called to offer is not the life of an animal. As disciples of Jesus, we are called to offer ourselves. Jesus did it perfectly and completely; that is why he is our Great High Priest.

The Christian priest stands before the gathered community to be an icon of the priesthood of Christ. So it is the priest who is given the privilege of presiding at the celebration of the Eucharist, offering the Bread and Wine to God that will become the Body and Blood of Christ, both to re-present the Lord’s sacrifice on the Cross, and to feed the People of God for their ministry in his name.

But the priesthood is given not only, and perhaps not even primarily, to those who are ordained; it is a gift given to the Church, to the whole Body of Christ. So the person ordained also stands before the community as an icon of its corporate priesthood. And priesthood has to do with offering, the offering of life, the living of life, to the glory of God. Life is offered and lived to the glory of God when it is lived fully, and when it is offered and available to God to be used as a vehicle of divine love and grace. Christian priesthood involves speaking the words and doing the deeds of divine compassion and forgiveness. In doing so we enable others to see in and through us the face of Christ, because we have become the hands and feet and lips of Christ in this world. This priesthood belongs to the whole Body of the Faithful; it is the priesthood shared by all the baptized.

And what do we have to offer? In and of ourselves, both lay and ordained, all that we have is the widow’s mite. What we have is our own limited and fallible humanity— imperfect and broken, flawed in so many ways, prone to making stupid and idiotic mistakes, seemingly unable to offer the perfection that God has the right to expect. But the incredibly Good News of the Gospel is that this is precisely what God wants. God wants the imperfect, broken and flawed human beings that we are, to reach out to the world, because each and every human being on the face of the earth is made of the same stuff, experiences the same challenges, and must deal with the same flaws.

It’s all symbolized in the widow’s mite— it seems like so little. But it’s not the amount that’s important, it is our willingness to offer who and what we are and have. That is our call; and that is how we exercise our priesthood.

James, my brother, today apostolic hands will be laid upon you for the office and work of a priest, to serve the Good Shepherd, the one who lays down his life for the sheep. Remember as you minister in his name, that there is only one Good Shepherd, and it is not you! You are called to serve him, you are not called to be him. Neither are you called to lay down your life for the sheep. Jesus did that, and he’s the only one who can. What we as priests are called to do is to lay our lives at the feet of Jesus, and to do what it is that he calls us to do.

Some might say that this is a bit of semantics, but I don’t believe so. The Church can be a bottomless pit of needs and wants, of people pulling at us from every side. And it can all look urgent. It can all look worthwhile. It can all look like ministry. We could give a thousand lives to it, and it wouldn’t be enough.

Priests are not called to save the world. That, too, has already been done. Our job is to lead people to the Good Shepherd, because that is where they will find green pastures and still waters. And he is the one, the only one, who can restore their souls.

The Lord asks you today, “James, my brother, do you love me?” And as you respond, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you,” he gives you your ministry: “Feed my sheep.” May the Lord bless, guide and strengthen you, today and always.

© James M. Jensen

Friday, December 4, 2009

Last glimpse

Last photo of Jim, taken at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Chenango Bridge, Saturday, November 14, 2009, shortly before he was stricken with chest pains and died approximately two hours later.

(Sent by Lynda Helmer, who wrote: "This attachment is a photo of Jim. My brother was the photographer for Dorothy Pierce's ordination and, by the grace of God, happened to snap this photo. It was taken of Jim literally moments before he became symptomatic. I love the photo because it really shows him doing something he really loved to do....celebrate a new ministry.")

Rejoice in the Lord alway - Looking ahead to Gaudete Sunday

Advent III-B — December 14, 2008
Grace Church, Utica
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
If we were to take our cue from the angels, then the closer we come to Christmas, the more our hearts will be filled with joy. The news the angels brought to those unsuspecting shepherds keeping watch over their flocks, was a message overflowing with joy. I think it’s fair to say that the heavens had not had as festive a celebration since the time of Creation.

C. S. Lewis once wrote that “Joy is the serious business of heaven.” The song of the angels testifies to that truth. But what about things here on earth? Joy may be fine in heaven, but there are a lot of circumstances and realities in this life that seem to place angelic joy above our reach. Beyond the light of Christmas lies the shadow of Good Friday. The baby born in Bethlehem, will become the man who will die in agony on Golgotha. Yes, God comes into our world on Christmas, but what kind of a world is it? Finding joy is not always an easy task. Some people do it by escaping into Santa-land fantasy. For others, however, it’s a depressing time— depression often brought on because of the contradiction they experience between the joy they hear about and the real world in which they live.

The Third Sunday of Advent has traditionally been known as “Gaudete”— a day to rejoice. That word, “gaudete” is a Latin word, the first word in the traditional introit or entrance hymn for today’s liturgy. On this Sunday we’re just past the mid-point of Advent, and we’re invited to anticipate the joy of Christmas. This mood is reflected in the lessons that are read, in the rose-colored vestments that are used, the flowers, and in the rose or pink candle on the Advent wreath. The more popular designation of this day, of course, is “Rose Sunday.”

In the second lesson St. Paul urges us to rejoice, always. We might well wonder how that is possible. If we’re among those who find it difficult to muster up some joy for a day or two at Christmas, how can we even think about rejoicing always?

Paul is speaking here not of a superficial kind of happiness, but of a quality of joy that is much deeper and more profound— an enduring joy more lasting than contrived ‘holiday cheer.’ He’s referring to the kind of joy that can be ours when we know in the depths of our souls that God is here and at work among us. It’s a joy that springs from the hope which is ours, a hope rooted in the certain faith that God’s purposes are being worked out in this world, and that God’s will will not be thwarted.

When you read about the early Church, it’s impossible to miss the joy that rings throughout every aspect of its life. In its liturgy, in its theology, and in its ongoing life even in the midst of persecution, the keynote is joy— the joy that comes from knowing Jesus as Savior and Lord. We’re told that the early Christian martyrs even faced death with joy— offering thanks that they were given the privilege of dying for the faith. They knew, not only in their minds but more importantly in their hearts and souls, that they were on the winning side. The battle had been fought, and in the resurrection of Jesus it had been won. They knew in their hearts that victory was theirs.

Today I fear that our religion often comes across to the world as gloomy and somber, because the world often hears Christians speaking more of sin than of redemption. Let’s admit that it’s tempting to spend our time wringing our hands over the darkness in the world and keeping ourselves in a perpetual state of despair over the state of the human race. But that temptation is a manifestation of our pride— the pride that continually tempts us to take sin more seriously than we take God’s forgiveness, to be overly impressed with our limitations to the extent that we virtually overlook the greatness of what God has done and is doing among us. That’s the reason we often miss the joy of the Christian life--- because our vision gets foggy and we lose sight of the fact that God is here and continues to work out his purposes.

Of course it’s true that God’s Son came into the world because of our sin. But that wasn’t the only reason. Christmas means more than simply the first tragic step to the Cross. For God to assume our flesh and share in human life was an essential component of the world as God envisioned it. In sharing our flesh Jesus drew all of humanity to himself. The early Fathers, the theologians of the Church, used to speak of Christ being made human so that we might share in his divinity. We might think of our spiritual growth in terms of allowing the divine spark in us to shine more brightly so that it can radiate more of the life and love of God.

The source of Christian joy is the mystery of God’s active, searching and creating love. If that’s true, then when God comes to us in the birth of Jesus, how else can we respond but with joy and thanksgiving? Paul can call us to rejoice always because he has known and experienced God’s liberating and transforming power in his own life. Paul had spent a number of years trying his best to rid the world of every vestige of Christianity; but his life was changed and he was transformed into an apostle and evangelist for the cause of Christ.

There is a painting by a Dutch artist, entitled The Numbering at Bethlehem. It depicts a typical mid-winter scene in a Flemish town. The streets are covered with snow; a wreath hangs over the door of one of the shops where a merchant and a buyer are haggling over prices. A young man flirts with a girl out on an errand. A farmer and his wife butcher a pig for someone’s dinner. A laborer struggles with an overloaded cart of firewood. In the background children are skating on a pond. A crowd of people are standing in front of the local tax office to be counted for the census and to pay their taxes. It’s a typical, everyday scene of mid-winter life in the village.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The Numbering at Bethlehem. 1566.
Oil on panel. Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp, Belgium,

But if you look closer, you see down toward the bottom of the canvas, in the middle of the street, unnoticed by everyone, a humble man carrying a bag of tools, and leading a small donkey who is trudging through the snow. Sitting on the donkey, shivering from the cold with an old blanket thrown over her shoulders, is an unassuming young woman. It’s Joseph the carpenter and his young wife Mary, come from Nazareth to pay taxes. Emmanuel— God with us.

And isn’t this the way that God usually comes, not only on Christmas, but each and every day, moving in silently, without fanfare, coming into the midst of life in all of its ordinary and everyday events. Here is God— in the love and friendship that people give to each other, in the strong hands and hearts that hold us up when we’re about to fall, and yes, in the birth of a baby— here is God touching us and loving us and bringing us the joy of salvation.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

© James M. Jensen

Saturday, November 21, 2009

And I Saw a New Heaven

"And I Saw a New Heaven" is being rehearsed by the Kingston men and boys choir in this excerpt from a documentary about the parish's efforts to raise funds for a new organ. Grace Church Utica people will know why this is particularly apt for giving you a flavor of what the music was like at the Requiem Eucharist. This was the main anthem sung at the Offertory.

The Eucharist of Christian Burial
In Thanksgiving for the Life of

The Very Reverend James M. Jensen
November 28, 1946 - November 14, 2009

7:00 P.M. November 19, 2009

Grace Church
Utica, NY


Sonata in g (Opus 1, No.3) John Loeillet (1680-1730)
Adagio J.M. Molter (1696-1763)
Ave Maria Bach/Gounod (1818-1893)
Fanfare J. Cook (1918-1984)

Entrance Hymn 379 'God Is Love, Let Heaven Adore Him' Abbots Leigh
Entrance Hymn 208 'The Strife Is Oer' Victory

Psalm 46 Anglican Chant sung by the choir M. Luther (1483-1546)

Gospel Acclamation Gelobt sei Gott

'Be faithful until death, says the Lord,'
'And I will give you the crown of life.' (Rev. 2:10)

Offertory Anthem 'And I Saw a New Heaven' E. Bainton (1880-1956)

Offertory Hymn 625 'Ye Holy Angels Bright' Darwall's 148th

Eucharistic Prayer B

Sanctus (S 128) W. Mathias (1934-1992)

Memorial Acclamation (S 138) M. Robinson (b. 1943)

Great Amen (S 146) M. Robinson

Christ Our Passover (S 154) D. Hurd (1950)

Lamb of God (S 158) H. Willan (1880-1968)

Communion Anthems 'The Lord Is my Shepherd' T. Matthews (1915-1999)
'E'en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come' P. Manz (1919-2009)
He that shall Endure to the End F. Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
'Rejoice in the Lord Alway' Anon

Communion Hymn 516 'Come Down, O Love Divine' Down Ampney

Recessional Hymn 207 'Jesus Christ Is Risen Today' Easter Hymn

Postlude 'Fantasy in G Major' J. S. Bach (1685-1750)


Bruce G. Smith, Organist and Choirmaster

Choir of Grace Church

Bertram Bookhout, trumpet; Janelle Bookhout, oboe; Sarah Hoffman, bassoon; Timothy Davis, organ; Elinor Hadity, soprano soloist; T. J. McAvaney, violin; Susan Sady, organ.

See also the Utica Observer Dispatch coverage of the funeral. (Don't miss the line from the homily about the "chicadee rector"!)

Friday, November 20, 2009

A long but wonderful day

Yesterday was a very long but strangely wonderful day. I tried not to think about it beforehand - just kept pushing myself to try to get ready in time because there was a good chance (as Jim often half-joked about) I'd be late to his funeral, punctuality not being my strong suit. I also pushed out of my mind any thought of how I would get through the long hours from noon to 7:00, first at the funeral home and then at the visitation and reception at church. Although I can write up a storm and talk your ear off one on one, I'm truly an introvert. Put me in a crowd (more than three people), and I clam up, panic, or just get overly anxious. I know I can "handle" just about anything I put my mind to, but getting through most social occasions, especially involving people I don't know well or not at all, is quite a chore. Needless to say, I was not born to be a rector's wife.

All I wanted out of Thursday was for people to gather and make their peace with Jim's departure. For me, I was just going to plod through, be a trooper, and then let my emotions swell with the glorious music and, I hoped, cry my eyes out.

It didn't work out that way - not at all. For days now (and again today) I've had this big knot and deep ache in my gut. I have difficulty sleeping, especially from about 1 to 4 a.m. And at times I feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone. But yesterday afternoon and evening suddenly a great calm settled inside. I don't know that I did a great "job" greeting and meeting people at the church, but I was relaxed and truly enjoyed it -- looking into each person's eyes, reading their pain and concern, listening to their words, and marveling at some who told stories of their times with Jim. There were people from downtown restaurants and diners, waitresses and owners, who told me how much they enjoyed his good humor and cheer. There were children, young choristers and teens, both the boys and girls high school varsity soccer teams and their coaches, local Roman Catholic clergy, and those from various denominations who had been recently working with Jim in a series of community organizing meetings under the auspices of PICO. Parishioners came, not just from Grace but from area churches, whom Jim had listened to and supported in many ways, and there were all the Episcopal clergy and staff, with whom he had shared his wisdom and counsel and given much care. There were tears and many, many hugs. No one told me anything I did not know already about Jim and how he affected people, but it was as if the whole of his life outside of me and our family appeared in the flesh before me.

At the core of Jim's convictions was the Incarnation. He once explained Anglo-Catholicism to me as deeply rooted in the notion that we could see, touch, and taste God. The mystery of the Real Presence in the Eucharist was one and the same as the face of God we see in each and every one of us and in the greater Creation that surrounds us. Worship and prayer that involves kneeling, standing, crossing and genuflecting, songs and music, candles and incense are a physical expression of our faith, as is feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, and caring for those who are abandoned. All that somehow came together for me Thursday afternoon, in the vast expanse of sanctuary, with the votive candles and Sr. Mary Gabriel's icon, where Jim's body lay in the nave, as people came one after one to kneel beside him and say their goodbyes.

This was so unexpected. In the past, to the little extent I ever contemplated Jim predeceasing me, I was ambivalent about the role the church would have to play in his funeral arrangements and what I formerly thought would be the focus on his personhood as priest, which might well eclipse the man who was and is my love, my life, and husband. But what I experienced on Thursday was not an "either / or" but a richness of "and"s. Each person reflected a layer of who and what Jim was in life, and the glorious celebration that followed was for the man and priest who was one and the same.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Borderless World by Chuck and Peg Hoffman. Acrylic on canvas, Sept 2008, 30 x 30 inches.

Proper 28-B - November 15, 2009
Grace Church, Utica

From today's Old Testament Lesson we hear these words:
There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence.
And in today's Gospel reading, Jesus says,
When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines.
Some Sundays in the Calendar of the Church Year have specific names attached to them: like Palm Sunday and Trinity Sunday. If we were to give this Sunday a name the most appropriate would be Apocalypse Sunday.

The word, apocalypse, in its Greek form, means "a lifting of the veil." So it's a word that has to do with disclosure and revelation. In one sense, of course, all of Scripture is a revelation. We believe that Scripture is God's Word to us, that through the scriptural writings, God's Word for us is revealed. But there is a more particular sense of apocalypse associated with the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament, as well as the Book of Revelation at the end of the New Testament. The book of Revelation, traditionally attributed to the Apostle John, is a vision of "the end" of all things, the end of time. The graphic scenes of crisis and judgment, of the separation from good and evil, of devils from angels, of the righteous from the unrighteous -- with the monsters and beasts on one side and the saints and the Mystic Lamb of God on the other side -- it's all a dramatic and vivid presentation of the struggle that goes on between the forces of good and evil, both in our individual lives and also in the world at large.

If you think about it, every age, every historical period has these moments: wars, plagues, great disasters; the sudden end of an era, the conquest of a nation, or the fall of an empire. The movie Apocalypse Now revealed the horrors of war in Vietnam. A more peaceful and more amazing Apocalypse was the sudden collapse of the Soviet Empire in 1989; the whole world changed in a few months without a shot being fired. Then of course there were the events of 9/11, when we all wondered if the world might be coming to an end.

There are also more personal experiences of an apocalyptic nature. A crisis comes -- a loss, an illness, a financial setback, a death -- something that tests, reveals and uncovers our true character. In some instance, you might say that these experiences lift the veil on our soul, sometimes just to our own eyes, and sometimes for all the world to see.

While all these revelations may bring new and startling things to light, life nonetheless goes on. As the angel told Daniel, "Many shall be purified and made white and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand." Some people, some of the time, gain new insight. At other times, we continue to be left in the dark.

But what about the end, I mean the real, final end of all things?

In the opening chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, at the time of the Lord's Ascension, Jesus and his apostles are gathered together at a place outside Jerusalem. They asked him, "'Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel? He replied, "it is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority."

It was not theirs, and it's not ours, to know the dates and times. Yet scripture clearly points to the fact that there will be an END, a closure, a reconciliation of all things in heaven and earth. We see it in nature all the time; and we see it in human life as well. At least as far as our earthly life is concerned, you and I will come to an end in death. A hundred years from now, not one of us here this morning is likely to be breathing and walking around on this earth. And yet, as commonplace as death is, the death of each and every human being, is, nonetheless, a deeply moving moment, an apocalypse of its own before God. We know from our own experience, that everything in life has its own Alpha and Omega -- it's beginning as well as its end. Scripture affirms that this is true of all creation.

But scripture and the Christian Faith make one more important affirmation. In the grand vision of heaven found at the end of the Revelation to John, a voice from the throne proclaims "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end" (21:6). It is our belief, it is the truth that we know by faith, that the beginning and the end are not just events in time and space. The beginning and the end cannot be separated from the one who is, in His own Divine Being, the Alpha and the Omega. God is not only the source and beginning of life; God is also the One who stands before us at the end. That's because our end is not determined by the deterioration and obliteration of death. At the end, there is God.

Remember what C.S. Lewis told his friend, when he was asked what happens when we die. Lewis told him that death would be that moment when God throws his arms around us and says, "At last, I've got you."

And what will we find? We'll find that any questions and doubts will fade away, as we meet God face to face. Which is simply to say that when things fall apart and time runs out, God's love remains and God's eternity breaks in. The word to us is wake up and live; watch and pray! Jesus Christ is truly the Living End -- the One in whom there is a new Heaven and a new Earth, a City of God, where we will at last be home, safe and sound, forever.

This was the last sermon Jim wrote. He finished it on Friday, November 13, 2009 - he was to preach it on Sunday, November 15,2009. I found it lying on his desk in his office today.

More memories

Thank you Joan, for these

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A few words

I hesitate to add any words here, as I would like to freeze time and not go forward, leaving Jim's photo up top, his sermons below, and forever be silent here. Soon I must take his clothing and vestments to the funeral home so he can be dressed and prayed over. I don't want to go ahead, but I must, and am so very thankful for all who have been with me, near and far, to help me, the children, Alison, John, and Greg, and Bonnie (Greg's mom and Jim's wife for many years), to get through what lies ahead. Please continue to keep us all in your prayers.

I cannot begin to name all the names I would like to thank now, but I must name a few: The Rev. Sarah Lewis, who will be dressing and praying over Jim today; Bishop Skip Adams, who anointed him and prayed over him Saturday at the hospital, was with the parish and me Sunday, and will be celebrating the Requiem Eucharist on Thursday; Jim's very good friends and colleagues, Fr. John Wingert, who will give the funeral homily and Fr. George Greene, who will be assisting along with Sarah Lewis; Fr. H. Alan Smith, who left the ordination service to be with Jim and me at the hospital during Jim's final hours; Mike Killian and Lisa Firsching, our wardens, the vestry, and Bruce Smith, our choirmaster and organist and pastor and friend to us all. As for the rest, I'd have to name every member of the parish, including the choir, and a whole host of friends and family, near and far. Please know I have felt your love and support and it has meant so much to me.

I also wanted to give special thanks to my online friends and church community, especially Fr. Jonathan Haggar, Fr. Terry Martin, and June Butler (Grandmere Mimi), among others, who alerted so many to our tragedy. Jonathan, I cannot begin to tell you how much Jim must have appreciated you closing down your site at OCICBW on the weekend in his memory. That was such an incredible honor and something that must have made him leap for joy on the slab - seriously! For a long time I used to just occasionally send him links to your posts, which he enjoyed, but later he came to read you more regularly, when he could find the time. Jim also had a quick wit, an earthy sense of humor, and a special love for bog standard folks, as he was also from a working class family and community (Racine, Wisconsin and Newcastle, U.K. may have much in common). He recognized you as a priest's priest - one who knows all that us lay people can never quite grasp about what being a priest means to you, your sense of humility and unworthiness unspoken, the dutifulness to God, all his people, and their needs, never mind the slings and arrows of life in the Church. And you made him laugh, as you have done for so many, about things that might otherwise make us cry. In fact, thanks to you, just the other day when Jim was talking about retirement (which he so rightly feared he'd never make), he smiled and said that maybe what he'd want to do is blog like you and Fr. Christian Troll (this from the man who resisted reading blogs for a long time and, I think, dared not look at my own, and mainly only read The Lead, which he loved and appreciated a great deal, for "real" news and commentary - thanks to you, Jim Naughton).

There was so much more I wanted to say now - musings in the middle of the night (as I am still not sleeping well at all) - but I don't remember them exactly now. Someday maybe I can pull them altogether. For now, let me just say briefly, that what I've learned so painfully and beautifully the last couple days is how glorious is the Church, the Body of Christ (which, forgive my heretical views includes Christians and non-Christians). In the past I have been often critical of the institutional church (which despite the lowercase "c" encompasses "ours" and lots of "theirs"). While we may have gotten past the Crusades and the Inquisition, Christian institutions still have much to answer for in the way of harm they have done, rather than good. But, as I once was more cognizant of when I first returned to church 20 years ago, after a time in the unchurched wilderness, the church's flaws stem from our humanity, and to criticize church or religion in general is to miss the point that it/they are the best we have and what makes us want to be our best, as close as we can to what God wills for us. Religious communities may be declining in numbers in the West, but they are essential.

Ah... descending into my usual wordiness and drifting into netherlands. I don't have the right words for this now, maybe I never will, but these last few days, no doubt the most painful of my entire life, have shown me Christ incarnate. I used to give Jim a hard time about not wanting to talk much about theology, doubt, belief, etc. with me, which I nevertheless understood because his ESFJ just did not communicate easily or well on such matters with my INTP, and, more practically, he needed time off from the pastor gig once he got home. But the core of his Anglo-Catholicism - incarnational theology (yes, with the smells and bells but without the misogyny and homophobia of some) - is what I've been seeing and feeling this week. All I can say is, thanks be to God.

Jim at Reagan's Baptism, Grace Church, Utica, 2009, courtesy of the proud grandfather, Chris Williams

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Very Rev. James M. Jensen 1946 - 2009

The Very Rev. James M. Jensen, 62, of New Hartford, Rector of Grace Church, Utica and Dean of the Utica-Rome District of the Diocese of Central New York, died suddenly November 14, 2009.

Fr. Jensen graduated from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1969. He graduated from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois in 1972. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1972 at Grace Episcopal Church in Madison, Wisconsin. He served parishes in Greenville, MI, Joliet, IL, Delavan, WI, DeKalb, IL and Hinsdale, IL prior to becoming Rector of Grace Church, Utica in 2001.

Fr. Jensen also served the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York as a member of the Executive Board and the Standing Committee.

The funeral will be held on Thursday at 7 PM at Grace Church, Utica where a Requiem Eucharist will be celebrated by the Rt. Rev. Gladstone B. Adams, III, Bishop of Episcopal Diocese of Central New York . Calling hours will be on Thursday from 3-6 PM at Grace Church.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Grace Church Music Fund or the Society of St. Margaret – Haiti.

UPDATE - From the parish:

UTICA, N.Y. The wardens, Vestry and congregation of Grace Church ask the Utica-area community to join us in prayer as we mourn the passing Saturday of the Very Rev. James M. Jensen, Rector of Grace Church since 2001.

Father Jensen died at Wilson Medical Center in Johnson City, N.Y., near Binghamton after being stricken while attending an ordination service in Chenango Bridge. His wife Kathryn and members of the clergy were with him.

He was 62. Father Jensen was the 11th Rector in the history of Grace Church, founded in 1838 in Utica. Grace Church is located at the corner of Elizabeth and Genesee streets.

The Right Rev. Gladstone B. Adams III, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York, traveled from Syracuse to Grace Church Sunday morning to support the congregation at both the 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Masses.

Bishop Adams pointed to the beginning of Sundays second reading from the letter to the Hebrews, which talks of priests standing day after day at their services. He said it reflected Father Jensens commitment to Grace Church.

He loved being a priest, the bishop said in addressing the congregation at the 10:30 a.m. Mass. He loved being your priest. And he loved you.

Bishop Adams counseled the congregation members to minister to each other in our grief.

Father Jensen was called to be Grace Churchs Rector in spring 2001 following an extensive nationwide search. He served previously at parishes in the mid-west.

During his 8 years at Grace, Father Jensen showed a deep love and commitment to the people of the parish. He gave great support to the music program, to the churchs Christian Education programs and to various community missions, which include a thrift shop on Devereux Street. He was extensively involved in ecumenical efforts with other Utica-area religious leaders and served in several diocesan-level roles including Diocesan Dean for the Eastern District, which includes the Mohawk Valley.

During his tenure, Father Jensen oversaw mergers with St. Georges Episcopal Church in South Utica and St. Pauls Episcopal Church in North Utica.

Susan Ulrich, Directress of the Grace Church Altar Society, had served on the search committee that helped bring Father Jensen to Utica.

He was an outstanding priest in all the capacities in which he served, both in the parish, and in the Diocese, Ulrich said. He guided the Altar Society members in their work through the myriad of liturgies over the year, always in a caring manner and with a wonderful sense of humor. We all feel blessed to have had him serve as our Rector, for what we now realize was much too short a timeframe. He will be missed immensely by all of us who had the pleasure of knowing and working with him.


Fr. Jim R.I.P.

Jim was reluctant to publish his sermons, in part because he never thought he got them quite right. I mean to save as many as I can from his office, but here are a couple I persuaded him to send to me, which I could not publish before:

EASTER III — April 6, 2008
Grace Church, Utica

High on the list of life’s frustrations are those situations in which things have not turned out the way they were supposed to, and at the same time they’ve gone beyond the point that we can do anything about it. I’m thinking of those times when there isn’t another chance, when the damage done is beyond repair or when something has passed the point of no return. These can be painful experiences, that often have a note of finality about them. They compel us to admit that certain doors are closed.

These times serve as a dramatic reminder that as far as this life in concerned, there is little that lasts forever. It’s true about our physical lives, but it’s also true about opportunities, hopes, and dreams. None of them are immune from death. Just like any other death, when hopes and dreams die we grieve; and our grief involves a mixture of feelings— among them both regret and anger. I suspect that’s as good a description as any of the emotional state of the disciples as we meet them, in this morning’s Gospel lesson, on the road to Emmaus.

For some time now, they had been followers of Jesus. Their hearts had been warmed by his presence; they listened as he would preach and teach; they had learned a great deal from him; and they had seen him heal people— restoring them to wholeness and strength. They believed that all of God’s promises were about to be fulfilled.

But beginning with Palm Sunday, everything went wrong. Even before Good Friday came, it was obvious that Jesus was going to die— and not only would he die, but it would be the agonizing and humiliating death of crucifixion. In some ways one of the most haunting sentences in all of Scripture is that one we hear today: “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.”

As with other deaths, when dreams die we mourn. We mourn our disappointments and our failures— we mourn our own sense of responsibility and feelings of guilt. In the Emmaus story it’s the disciple Cleopas who says, “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” “We had hoped....” How often those words are spoken.

We had hoped that he would finish school.
We had hoped that the new job would work out.
We had hoped that the biopsy would be negative.
We had hoped that at least in the Church we would find
love and acceptance.

What do you do with a broken dream? The answer never comes easily. Sometimes we keep asking the question and the answer doesn’t seem to come at all— we feel as though we’re left to sink in disappointment.

But today we meet Jesus’ disciples on their road of broken dreams, and the miracle is that in the midst of it all God is preparing them for the greatest experience of their lives. They’re about to experience the Resurrection— they’re about to come into a fuller understanding of who God is and how God acts. Needless to say, they weren’t ready for it. They were too wrapped up in their own despair to even notice it at first. But God loved them enough to use the disappointment and bitterness that they felt to prepare them for that Resurrection experience.

Spiritual writers down through the centuries have described God’s way of hollowing out our souls that they can be filled— filled with God’s own life. And that’s exactly what happened with those disciples. Their grieving was a kind of hollowing-out so that they could be filled with the power and love of God.

They didn’t recognize Jesus at first, because they were so wrapped up in themselves— in their own despair and self-pity. Fortunately, they did have enough presence of mind to extend what in their culture was considered common courtesy to a stranger. They invited him to stop and eat and spend the night with them. And that’s when the reality of the situation could break through. Once they made the first gesture toward something and someone outside of themselves, the miracle could take place. Jesus broke bread with them, and they recognized him. Resurrection became real for them when they forgot about themselves for a moment and became concerned with someone else.

Life in this world is a curious blend of highs and lows. Sometimes we feel on top of it all because our hopes and dreams come true. And then there are those times when it just doesn’t work out the way we planned. We’re all entitled to mourn those broken dreams— but only for a brief time. Then life has to go on. When it does, there are always important choices to be made. It can be a life that is controlled by things that are broken and dead, or it can be one that finds its focus in the new opportunities that God provides. Resurrection is a gift that God offers— but as with any other gift, it’s one that we have to receive and accept before it can bring us any joy.

To believe all that— to believe in God’s power to bring life and hope out of the ashes of despair doesn’t mean going back over old ground to resuscitate the old dreams; it means letting them go so that we can embrace the new possibilities that God holds before us. The Emmaus story reminds us that God is in charge of things, and that death and destruction will never have the last word. But as usual, God is going to bring it about in a way that’s unique.

Resurrection is the Good News about life, but resurrection doesn’t come on our own terms. It comes when we’re open to the new things that God has in store for us— when we’re willing to listen and watch for them so that we can embrace them and make them our own

The joy of the Christian life is rooted in the truth that in all things God works for good with those who love him; the promise of the Christian life is that in the power of God’s Holy Spirit all things can and will be made new.

© James M. Jensen

Easter Day 2009

Easter Day 2009

If you were an artist, and were asked to take brush in hand to do a painting of Easter, what would it look like? What would you see in your mind’s eye, as you prepared to paint? Chances are quite good that somewhere in the painting the sun would be breaking over the horizon. There something about sunrise, about the dawning of a new day that speaks to us of Easter. It’s a feeling so natural and so deep within us that we really expect Mother Nature to cooperate. If Easter Day should actually be overcast, or, heaven forbid, raining— or snowing— there’s something in us that wonders if God forgot to check the calendar.

Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you: Easter should be bright, cheerful, and overflowing with light. Dark, gloomy weather is all right, maybe even fitting, for Good Friday, but Easter means life, and life is reflected in light.

And yet, as logical as all that may be, it is not the way the story unfolds in the Gospel of John. Just a moment ago we heard these words:
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalen came to the tomb.... (Jn. 20:1)
“While it was still dark..”

John the Evangelist was an artist— an artist with words and images. He wasn’t using words casually when he began this account of the first Easter. He was painting a verbal picture for us, preparing us for what was to follow.

The contrast of light and darkness is a theme that John used throughout his writing. In the opening verses of his Gospel he tells us that God’s Son came into the world as light, that this “...light shines in the darkness...” and that the darkness has not been able to overcome it. But now, as we come to the end of his Gospel account, it looks as though darkness and fear have indeed gained the upper hand. Mark writes in his Gospel that when she came and found the tomb empty, Mary Magdalene fled in fear, because she believed that someone had stolen the body. And she was frightened beyond belief.

Fear— and the darkness that fear embodies— is a dominant theme in history. Fear is a common human emotion. Authorities tell us that infants have two primary fears: fear of falling and fear of loud noises. Gradually that number multiplies. We fear our fellow human beings even as we fear being alone. We are afraid of both the past and the future. We worry about what we can see as well as about what we cannot see. Anxiety comes on us about ourselves and about our loved ones. We sometimes dread living almost as much as we dread dying.

Mary Magdalene was apprehensive, she was fearful, and for good reason. After all, Jesus was her dearest friend, a friend who had cared for her as no one else ever had. Jesus had taught and shown her more about God than she had ever known before. He had helped Mary to understand herself. He had brought out the best in her, and loved her unconditionally. Because of Jesus, Mary’s heart and soul had come to share a dream of new possibilities for her life. But that dream came crashing down around her when Jesus was so violently put to death and buried. In the midst of her grief she at least wanted to pay her respects, anoint his dead body according to Jewish custom, and hopefully get some closure on this whole tragic mess. But now she couldn’t even find his body. What was all this about? What was going on? What was she going to do?

Mark’s gospel tells us that Mary fled. That’s natural, isn’t it? We often flee when we’re afraid. Then we become more fearful because we’re fleeing. The problem is that there is no escape from fear. We have to face it and overcome it.

We live in a time when people are fearful. Our national economy is in deep crisis. People have lost jobs. They’ve lost the security they thought they had for retirement. For many, the American dream seems like a cruel joke. The future is one big question mark. While people may tell their children that all will be well, deep inside many are fearful.

While this may not be a time for optimism, as people of faith we do have every reason to be hopeful. The Christian Faith is not a prescription for “pie in the sky” optimism. The optimist believes that better days are coming. The person of faith believes that God is coming. Our hope is not in the future, but in the God of the future, the One who holds history and all of us in the palm of his hand.

The Gospel is not based upon wishful thinking or blind optimism. The Gospel is rooted in faith and trust placed in God: the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God of Sarah, Ruth, and David; the God of Mary and Joseph, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This God has a track record. Hope is neither an emotion nor sheer idealism. Hope is the blessing that comes to a heart and soul grounded in faith and commitment— the belief that the God who built a nation out of a band of suffering Hebrew slaves, who led them through the wilderness to a land of promise, who later rescued them from exile in far-away Babylon, and who sent from their ranks Jesus of Nazareth, whom we Christians know as the Messiah. This God is our refuge and strength. He is our Redeemer and our Lord. Ours is a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

What does resurrection mean? What does it look like? Listen to these words from Frederick Buechner:
I cannot tell you... what I think I would have seen if I had been there myself. But I can tell you this: That what I believe happened and what in faith and great joy I proclaim to you is that he somehow got up with the life in him again and the glory upon him. I was not there to see it anymore than I was awake to see the sunrise this morning, but I affirm it as surely as I do that by God’s grace the sun did rise this morning because that is why the world is flooded with light.

The disciples experienced the risen Christ so surely, so dynamically, that the change in them was comparable to what had happened to Jesus himself. They were transformed, given new life, and went forth to share it with the world.

In St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, there is an inscription acknowledging Sir Christopher Wren, the famous architect. It concludes: “If you seek his monument, look around you.” If you are seeking sure signs of Jesus’ resurrection, look around you; look at history; look around you at the lives of ordinary mean and women that have been transformed and changed by grace and resurrection power. Neither the Church nor the New Testament scriptures would exist, if it were not for the absolute certainty of Jesus’ followers that they had experienced his resurrected presence. The fear that had threatened to overtake them was dispelled, and they knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that Jesus had Risen!

The resurrection is not a fact to be proven. It is an experience to be shared. And when it is, your entire life will become a joyous and never-ending “Alleluia!”

© James M. Jensen

Monday, September 14, 2009

Jacques Ellul on Propaganda

This was written some time ago (1965), by Jacques Ellul, who has been described as "a French philosopher, law professor, sociologist, theologian, and Christian anarchist." Not sure how I missed him back in the '60's and '70's when I was enamored with French philosophers, but it seems that he has some valuable insights into how most citizens respond to and filter the news:

In the world of politics and economies, the same holds true. The news is only about trouble, danger and problems. This gives man the notion that he lives in a terrible and frightening era. Man cannot stand this; he cannot live in an absurd and incoherent world (for this, he would have to be heroic, and even Camus, who considered this the only honest posture, was not really able to stick it to it); nor can he accept the idea that the problems, which sprout all around him, cannot be solved, or that he himself has no value as an individual and is subject to the turn of events.

The man who keeps himself informed needs a framework in which all this information can be put in order; he needs explanations and comprehensive answers to general problems; he needs coherence. And he needs an affirmation of his own worth. All this is the immediate effect of information.

And the more complicated the problems are, the more simple the explanations must be; the more fragmented the canvas, the simpler the pattern; the more difficult the question, the more all-embracing the solution; the more menacing the reduction of his worth, the greater the need for boosting his ego.

All this propaganda — and only propaganda — can give him.

… An analysis of propaganda therefore shows that it succeeds primarily because it corresponds exactly to a need of the masses. Effective propaganda needs to give man an all-embracing view of the world, a view rather than a doctrine. Such a view will first of all encompass a general panorama of history, economics and politics. That panorama allows the individual to give proper classification to all the news items he receives; to exercise a “critical” judgment, to sharply accentuate certain facts and suppress others, depending on well they fit into the framework.

News therefore loses its frightening character when it offers information for which the listener already has a ready explanation in his mind, or for which he can easily find one. Man is doubly reassured by propaganda: first, because it tells him the reasons behind the developments which unfold, and second, because it promises a solution for all the problems that arise, which would otherwise seem insoluble.

This and more from Jacques Ellul's Propaganda at Edge of Grace (emphases and ellipses from Edge of Grace). See also, a brief summary of Ellul's views on propaganda at Source Watch, and another excerpt from his book here.

Whether one is talking about health care in particular, politics in general, or even disputes within institutionalized religion, it seems that more and more people in the U.S. are falling into one kind of "all-embracing world view" or another. Those comprehensive views are not free of association with "doctrines," but they do seem to be the glue that holds everything together, that keeps their adherents from thinking critically about how or whether the pieces all fit, and drives the myopic quest to restrict one's news sources and relationships to those cocooned one's own "all-embracing" view.

Of course this is not limited to right-wing or conservative views. Progressives have their own mind-set and concerns that can spawn knee-jerk reactions and alliances, as well as their preferred news sources and relationships. But it seems that progressives are far less successful at integrating people into their global views and institutions that support them, perhaps because fear more often impels digging in and defending the status quo (and/or supposed Golden Ages past). How do they address these kinds of needs?
"he needs explanations and comprehensive answers to general problems; he needs coherence. And he needs an affirmation of his own worth."
Fearfulness about the end of Creation, global-warming, pollution, uncertainty, mystery, and insignificance in the face of corporate giants, do not provide the kind of comforting coherence or sense of order that most people crave. Or so it seems.........

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Do you think he means it?

Just received this in an email. Would like to believe him but... not much to show for this so far in terms of real action (though this was welcome, if late), and then there's the pesky thing about health care reform and his commitment to the single payer option. But, FWIW:

Dear Friend:

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. I appreciate your perspective.

Every American deserves equal protection under our laws, and neither Federal nor state law should discriminate against any American. The issue of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) rights has all too often been used to divide our country. We must treat all of our citizens with dignity and respect, and stand united in our protection of equality--a founding principle of our Nation and a moral imperative.

I continue to oppose a Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and support the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. We must also extend the over 1,100 Federal marital rights and benefits to same-sex couples, because every American should be able to visit a loved one in the hospital, transfer property, and receive equal health insurance and other employment benefits.

My Administration is committed to addressing a full spectrum of issues important to the LGBT community. We can reduce discrimination by strengthening hate crimes statutes; supporting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act; ensuring adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation; and opposing discrimination in public accommodations. To combat HIV/AIDS, we need policies that support people living with this illness and increased funding for prevention, care, and research. I also support repealing the current Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy in a sensible way that strengthens our Armed Forces and our national security.

Please join me online to learn more about my civil rights agenda at: Together, we can create a more open and tolerant society that protects and values all people.

Thank you again for writing.


Barack Obama

Saturday, August 15, 2009

"The Game" and other good reads from Religion Dispatches

Latest good reads, having discovered

Excerpt from the book review "Why David Sometimes Wins: What We Must Learn From Cesar Chavez" by Frederick Clarkson:

Chavez compelled his top leaders and organizers to participate in Synanon’s fiercely confrontational encounter group technique he called “the game.” Ganz describes it as “an intensely political kind of group therapy. In emotionally aggressive sessions with 10-15 persons, participants verbally attacked each other to air problems” for periods of one to three hours.

Ganz concludes, “Chavez transformed UFW deliberations into a controlled, exclusive and judgmental process in which one’s loyalty was constantly on the line.” Chavez sought to make “the game” as central to the practice of the union as it was to Synanon. In the Spring of 1978, Chavez required 200 staffers to travel as much as five hours to attend weekly sessions.

The UFW degenerated into a “community of unpaid cadres, loyal to a single leader, governed by groupthink rituals, and enjoying the apparent efficiency of unquestioning obedience.” Ganz continues, “It’s unclear how Chavez hoped to reconcile Dederich’s vision with that of a democratically accountable union organized to represent workers—especially when the UFW thrived on diversity, contentiousness and creativity. In fact, he could not.”

In a sustained frenzy of political paranoia, Chavez fired or drove out the committed veterans who had brought the UFW so far. Control became concentrated in the hands of Chavez family members and dependents.

In short, Chavez “scrapped the strategic capacity that the UFW had taken years to develop,” and the UFW stopped organizing and “moved into the kind of advocacy, services provision and public policy work that other nonprofits had done for years.” Even after Chavez’s death in 1993, the UFW never regained its capacity for organizing. At its height, the UFW had 70,000 workers under contract; today that number is no more than 5,000 and the UFW serves mostly as a hub of a network of nonprofit agencies.

Ganz does not explain why Chavez came unglued or how Dederich came into his life and was able to wield such influence in the union. But in telling the truth about the matter, Ganz plants a red flag on the problem for those who come later. This is important in part because what happened with the UFW in many ways epitomizes what we saw in the 1970s, when many religious, political, business, and psychotherapy cults employing similar techniques wreaked havoc in the culture. Some of this continues to this day, including programs modeled on Synanon, and it remains a dark social and political undercurrent that most of us choose not to see, let alone address.

Other articles of interest and excerpts:

Women of Opus Dei Explain “True Feminism” By Kate Childs Graham
"In fact, these women are trying to suggest that what seems like sexism isn’t really that at all."
Lies, Intimidation, and the Insurance Industry: The Republicans Have Lost Their Minds By Frank Schaeffer

There is no daylight between the Republican Party, the health-care insurance industry, far right leaders like Dick Armey, the legion of insurance lobbyists, and now, a small army of thugs. All we're missing is actual uniforms, otherwise we now have a full blown American version of the Nazi Brownshirts.

No, I don't believe that these people are about to take over the country. No, the sky is not falling. But the Republican Party is. It is now profoundly anti-American.

Far-Right Evangelicals And The Campaign Against Obama
By Frank Schaeffer

Far-right evangelicals don’t see America as just another country, but as a battleground and springboard for world conquest in the name of Christ. In that the evangelical left and right agree: from Wallis to Dobson, they all believe that God is on their side; they may differ on precise issues but they all believe in some form of American exceptionalism.

The reason for this is that intellectually lazy political players of the kind who lead the evangelical movement crave power, or to be close to power, just like the people who run C Street. These are the same folks who have been putting together the so-called National Prayer Breakfast; they are the “professional Christian” hangers-on running around Washington DC putting together Bible studies and all the rest.

If they were just interested in serving Jesus they would be called to places like Peoria or the East Village once in a while. But they’re really only interested in being close to power; without having to do the hard work to actually run for electoral office or get boring bureaucratic jobs inside the government. The radical religious right are the ultimate camp followers. They’re latching onto government for a free ride while decrying it. They want to overthrow the present order from the inside in the name of God.

Sotomayor, Evangelicals, and Racism
By Michael J. Altman

Far-right evangelicals don’t see America as just another country, but as a battleground and springboard for world conquest in the name of Christ. In that the evangelical left and right agree: from Wallis to Dobson, they all believe that God is on their side; they may differ on precise issues but they all believe in some form of American exceptionalism.

The reason for this is that intellectually lazy political players of the kind who lead the evangelical movement crave power, or to be close to power, just like the people who run C Street. These are the same folks who have been putting together the so-called National Prayer Breakfast; they are the “professional Christian” hangers-on running around Washington DC putting together Bible studies and all the rest.

If they were just interested in serving Jesus they would be called to places like Peoria or the East Village once in a while. But they’re really only interested in being close to power; without having to do the hard work to actually run for electoral office or get boring bureaucratic jobs inside the government. The radical religious right are the ultimate camp followers. They’re latching onto government for a free ride while decrying it. They want to overthrow the present order from the inside in the name of God.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Truth Alone WIll Set You Free

"The modern world, as Kafka predicted, has become a world where the irrational has become rational, where lies become true. And facts alone will be powerless to thwart the mendacity spun out through billions of dollars in corporate advertising, lobbying and control of traditional sources of information. We will have to descend into the world of the forgotten, to write, photograph, paint, sing, act, blog, video and film with anger and honesty that have been blunted by the parameters of traditional journalism. The lines between artists, social activists and journalists have to be erased. These lines diminish the power of reform, justice and an understanding of the truth. And it is for this purpose that these lines are there."

Chris Hedges, from "The Truth Alone Will Set You Free"

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Compare and Contrast

I am working on writing up some thoughts on human sexuality that have been percolating since earlier this summer, but have miles to go before I can pull them together. For now, I would just like to share these excerpts from statements on human sexuality from the Episcopal (TEC) and Lutheran (ECLA) Churches. The first, is from the Episcopal House of Bishops Theology Committee, issued in 2003 (full text here). The second is the original April 2009 proposal to be considered by the Lutherans at their assembly this August (full text here).

As a caveat, I am not endorsing either one. Nor am I attempting to address the particular political contexts in which they arose, the persons involved in their drafting, prior or subsequent statements by other persons and entities within (or without) those institutions, or proposed legislation concerning same-sex marriage, blessings, or relationships. The point I want to make here is simply the focus on sexual conduct and particular "expressions" of physical intimacy in the Episcopal document and the much broader biological, psychological, and social context attempted by the Lutheran document. While the latter is not perfect, by any means, (it, for example, leaves room for various "traditional" views on same-sex relations and does not appear to adequately address the needs and experiences of single persons), it seems to go much further than many Episcopal discussions (at least those I've seen) in addressing human sexuality across the board, not just across the spectrum of sexual orientation and identity but also in terms of the broad range of circumstances and relationships in which sexuality may be implicated.

Please note that I am NOT faulting excellent work done by some (not at all -- more about Tobias Haller's Reasonable and Holy later -- one of the best discussions I've seen anywhere). What I am saying is that in at least some forums, it seems to me that discussion among Episcopalians often pays too much attention to sex acts and erotic desire and their relationship to marriage and what that has to do with ordination and the episcopate in our church - mainly due to the way our conservatives keep trying to frame the issue - instead of thinking more broadly in terms of what sexuality is for individuals and society as a whole. Sexuality take away procreation amounts to something much more diverse and significant than "erotic desire" - homosexual or heterosexual or otherwise. And at some point I think we need to look beyond the virtue and ideal of long-term partnerships, same-sex or mixed-sex, and look at where the values implicit in that ideal plays out in everyday lives, among children, teens, adults, and the elderly, among friends, lovers, spouses, and acquaintances -- also what role civil law should play in all this, recognizing that social and cultural values and institutions are not and should not be church-bound.

In short, I think that at least in terms of these two particular documents, the Lutherans are much more grounded in the real world, as well as further along in terms of a theological understanding of current realities (at least in Western culture). (And yes, I know there is another committee -- membership only recently disclosed --- working on a new statement for the HOB due to be issued in 2011).

So... FWIW..........


The Gift of Sexuality: A Theological Perspective
Report of the Theology Committee of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church - 2003

4. The Complex Gift of Human Sexuality

[4.0] Sexuality is a fundamental and complex aspect of human nature, which we bth use and abuse. As Christians we believe it is part of God’s good creation and intended to be a source of blessing and joy for human beings. We also believe sexual desire and behavior can be an occasion of sin leading to personal unhappiness and social disorder.

[4.1] The links between love and sexual pleasure testify to the way in which sexuality blesses human intimacy. Sexual intimacy has a public and social dimension as well. When healthy and well-ordered, our sexuality and sexual expressions contribute to the health and stability of individuals and society. Levels of sexuality and intimacy are factors in all human relationships and receive a range of expressions along a spectrum of relationships, from friendship to family in its various configurations. Within the context of marriage healthy sexual intimacy supports the couple and the possibility of children and their care and nurture.

[4.2] Yet this great and mysterious gift is often the cause of pain to individuals and suffering throughout society. Human beings are most vulnerable in sexually intimate relationships. Our sexual lives can be very fragile and complex. When disordered, sexual behavior can destabilize human society and become a means of exploitation and damage. The staggering divorce rate in the United States, the proliferation of serial marriages, and the increase of promiscuity, especially among the young, attest to the varied struggles many experience around sexuality.

[4.3] Why did God give humankind this wonderful and often overwhelming gift? If we thought it was solely as an aid to intimacy and pleasure, we might come to a particular set of conclusions. Alternatively, if we believed it was solely designed as a means of procreation, our conclusions might be of quite a different character. Our conviction is that God’s gift of human sexuality embraces all of these goods, which are perfected in a yet higher reality, namely, making present in creaturely life a self-sharing and mutual fidelity that images the divine life and nurtures and protects both partners involved and the well-being of the social order.

[4.4] Holy Scripture teaches that God gave sex as one of the means for married persons to share themselves with each other (1 Cor. 7:3-5); for procreation (Gen. 1:28); and to be an icon, on the human level, of the relationships between God and the people of
Israel, and Christ and the Church (Eph. 5:25-33).

[4.5] We also recognize there is a range of sexual identities among human beings, and a portion of the population experiences itself as having a homosexual orientation. As Christians, we affirm that persons of all sexual orientations are created in the image of
God, and they are full members of the human family. The Church vigorously denounces discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation, and we call upon all members of our society, and especially members of the body of Christ, to honor their baptismal vow to respect the full humanity and dignity of every human being (BCP 305).

[4.6] If we have correctly discerned God.s purpose in giving us the gift of human sexuality, and if there are those both within and outside of the Church who experience themselves as exclusively homosexual in their sexual orientation, difficult questions inevitably arise as to what patterns of sexual intimacy are most congruent with the holiness of God’s self-giving life. In particular, many are asking, with attendant pastoral concern, whether some forms of homosexual activity might be open to God’s blessing in ways the Church has not previously recognized. Does the Church remain persuaded that all expressions of homosexual intimacy are sinful, or are there conditions under which we might be able to recognize that intimacy as a source of God’s blessing, just as is true in some, though not all, expressions of heterosexual intimacy?

[4.7] If some, though not all, expressions of homosexual intimacy might be open to the blessing of God, might they also be open to the blessing of the Church? If so, which ones? Under what conditions? Would the Church.s blessing be considered in any sense a marital blessing? Parallel or analogous to marriage? Or something else? And if something else, what?

[4.8] If some, though not all, expressions of homosexual intimacy might be open to the blessing of God, and the blessing of the Church, is it thus appropriate for the Church to ordain as .wholesome examples. certain non-celibate homosexual persons? Again we would have to ask: which ones? And under what conditions?

[4.9] These questions are controversial in part because they challenge the Church’s traditional understanding of human sexuality which can be summarized as follows: Holy Scripture nowhere condones homosexual practice; in fact, a few passages of Hebrew Scripture and of letters of Paul explicitly proscribe homosexual acts; marriage is defined as the joining together of a man and a woman; marriage is the only appropriate setting for genital sexual intimacy; the norm for singleness, as for marriage, is chastity; but in the case of singleness that norm means abstinence.


Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust - April 2009
Recommended proposed social statement for action by ELCA Churchwide Assembly August 2009

III. Trust and human sexuality

God loves human life so much that “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14). We know, therefore, that God’s love embraces us totally, including our sexuality. We also know that God created each of us not only as individuals, but also as people who live in a variety of social communities and contexts. In response to God’s love for us, we seek life-giving relationships with others and create social structures and practices that support such relationships.

The complexity of human sexuality

God created human beings to be in relationship with each other and continually blesses us with diverse powers, which we use in living out those relationships. These include powers for action, reasoning, imagination, and creativity.

Sexuality especially involves the powers or capacities to form deep and lasting bonds, to give and receive pleasure, and to conceive and bear children. Sexuality can be integral to the desire to commit oneself to life with another, to touch and be touched, and to love and be loved. Such powers are complex and ambiguous. They can be used well or badly. They can bring astonishing joy and delight. Such powers can serve God and serve the neighbor. They also can hurt self or hurt the neighbor. Sexuality finds expression at the extreme ends of human experience: in love, care, and security; or lust, cold indifference, and exploitation.

Sexuality consists of a rich and diverse combination of relational, emotional, and physical interactions and possibilities. It surely does not consist solely of erotic desire. Erotic desire, in the narrow sense, is only one component of the relational bonds that humans crave as sexual beings. Although not all relationships are sexual, at some level most sexual relationships are about companionship. Although some people may remain single, either intentionally or unintentionally, all people need and delight in companionship and all are vulnerable to loneliness.

The need to share our lives with others is a profound good (Genesis 2:18). The counsel to love and care for the neighbor is not a command that is foreign to our created natures; rather, reaching out in love and care is part of who we are as relational and sexual beings. Even if we never have sexual intimacy, we all seek and respond to the bonds and needs of relationships.

Sexual love—the complex interplay of longing, erotic attraction, self-giving and receiving defined by trust – is a wondrous gift. The longing for connection, however, also can render human beings susceptible to pain, isolation, and harm. The desire for sexual love, therefore, does not by itself constitute a moral justification for sexual behavior. Giving and receiving love always involves mixed motives and limited understanding of individual and communal consequences.

The sharing of love and sexual intimacy within the mutuality of a mature and trusting relationship can be a rich source of romance, delight, creativity, imagination, restraint, desire, pleasure, safety, and deep contentment that provide the context for individuals, family, and the community to thrive.

Though sexual love remains God’s good gift, sin permeates human sexuality as it does all of life. When expressed immaturely, irresponsibly, or with hurtful intent, then love—or its counterfeit, coercive power—can lead to harm and even death. Too often lust is mistaken for love, which in turn becomes the rationale for selfish behaviors. When infatuation, lust, and self-gratification take the place of the responsibilities of love, cascading consequences result that can be devastating for partners, children, families, and society.

In recognizing the many ways in which people misuse power and love, we need to be honest about sin and the finite limitations of human beings. We also recognize the complexity of the human and societal forces that drive the desire for companionship, for intimate relation with another, for belonging, and for worth. The deep interconnectedness of the body with the mind and spirit suggest the complexity of such situations. The biblical narratives both rejoice in the splendor of sexual attraction (Song of Songs 4) and are candid about the harm that can result from human sexuality (2 Samuel 11; 2 Samuel 13; Matthew 5:27–30).
. . . .

IV Sexuality and social structures that enhance social trust

Marriage: shelter and context for trust

Trust is a quality of relationship that, while never perfected, is nurtured and reinforced over time. The trust and mutuality afforded by marriage can make marriage one of the most beautiful, abiding, and transformative forms of human relationship. Depth of care, matched to an intimacy of touch, creates relationships much stronger than simple and momentary erotic interest. Sexual intimacy, together with promises of fidelity and public accountability, nurtures bonds that allow people to thrive and provides a rich context for the care and support of children.

Marriage is a covenant of mutual promises, commitment, and hope authorized legally by the state and blessed by God. The historic Christian tradition and the Lutheran Confessions have recognized marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman, reflecting Mark 10: 6–9: “But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one put asunder.” (Jesus here recalls Genesis 1:27; 2:23–24.)

Lutherans have long affirmed that the public accountability of marriage, as expressed through a legal contract, provides the necessary social support and social trust for relationships that are intended to be sustained throughout life and within changing and often challenging life situations. In this country, pastors carry both legal and religious responsibilities for marriage. In carrying out these responsibilities, pastors hold and exercise pastoral discretion for the decision to marry in the church. In the community of the church they preside over the mutual promises made between a couple seeking the lifelong, monogamous, and faithful relationship of marriage.

Marriage requires constant care and cultivation. It is intended to protect the creation and nurturing of mutual trust and love as one foundation of human community. It is a binding relationship that provides conditions for personal well-being, the flourishing of the partner, and the possibility of procreation and the nurturing of children. It is also intended to be a blessing to the community and the world. Because of promises of fidelity and public accountability, marriage provides a context of love, trust, honesty, and commitment within which a couple can express the profound joy of relationship as well as address the troubles they encounter throughout life.

Christians believe that marriage is not solely to legitimate physical sexual intimacy, but to support long-term and durable communion for the good of others.23 It is a communion within which the play and delight of physical love are crucial expressions of the depth of trust, and in which lovemaking can be a tender and generous act of self-giving that tends to the joy and pleasure of the other.

The public character of marriage also implies a civil responsibility. Marriage is intended not only to protect the people who are married, but to signal to the community their intention to live a peaceful and mutually fulfilling life, even as they endeavor to strengthen the community in which they live. The public promises of marriage between a man and a woman, therefore, also protect the community by holding people accountable to their vows. Fidelity to promises blesses all who depend on this trust within and beyond the marriage.

The Christian commitment to marriage recognizes that sin enters all relationships, both within and outside the institution of marriage. All marriages fall short of intentions and difficulties are inevitable, both because of the different needs and desires of the two individuals, and because of sin, which places the anxious concern for self before the needs of the other. Infidelity to marriage promises betrays the intimate trust of the partner, the security of the family, and the public trust of the community.

Precisely because marriage is the place where deep human trust and needs abide, it also can be a place of great harm. Many experience neither love nor trust within marriage. Harming another emotionally, physically, or spiritually, including through the misuse or abuse of power, is a profound injury. It is also a betrayal and violation of the shelter and trust that are intended within the marriage relationship. Particular care must be taken to support and find safe haven for all who are at risk within a marriage. This includes those whose sense of self is destroyed or damaged within the marriage relationship and, therefore, whose ability to act or advocate for their own health and safety may be inhibited or lost.

This church recognizes that in some situations the trust upon which marriage is built becomes so deeply damaged or is so deeply flawed that the marriage itself must come to a legal end (Matthew 9:3–12). This church does not treat divorce lightly nor does it disregard the responsibilities of marriage. However, in such situations, it provides support to the people involved and all who are affected. Divorced individuals are encouraged to avail themselves of pastoral care, to be assured of God’s presence, forgiveness, and healing, and to remain in the communion of the church, recognizing the all-encompassing mercy of God.

This church will provide supportive pastoral care to those who are divorced. Further, it believes that those who wish to remarry may gain wisdom from the past and may be assured of the Gospel’s freedom, in the midst of brokenness and forgiveness, to enter into their new responsibilities in joy and hope. This church will tend pastorally to the special concerns of blended families, children of divorced parents, and to the particular tensions that may accompany family breakdown and transition.

Despite its awareness of the presence of sin and failure in marriage, the Christian tradition places great emphasis on the value of marriage for a husband and wife. It is in marriage that the highest degrees of physical intimacy are matched with and protected by the highest levels of binding commitment, including legal protection. It is in marriage that public promises of lifetime commitment can create the foundation for trust, intimacy, and safety.

Both the couple’s intent in their lifelong promises and the civil requirements for marriage are important. Mutual promises of enduring care and fidelity, made before God, allow a couple to open themselves to each other. They permit the sharing of profound and tender affection as well as deep vulnerabilities and anxieties. The legal contract creates a public arrangement within which a couple may safely and equitably share their assets and resources, arrive at joint decisions, anticipate children, protect and nurture them, and plan for a shared future.

The church’s historical experience supports its confidence that solemn promises, made before a company of witnesses who ask for God’s blessing on a man and a woman, have the power to create a unique framework within which two people, a new family, and the community may thrive. Consistent with that experience, this church has confidence that such promises, supported by the contractual framework of civil law, can create a lifetime relationship of commitment and cooperation.

It must be noted that some, though not all, in this church and within the larger Christian community, conclude that marriage is also the appropriate term to use in describing similar benefits, protection, and support for same-gender couples entering into lifelong monogamous relationships. They believe that such accountable relationships also provide the necessary foundation that supports trust and familial and community thriving. Other contractual agreements such as civil unions also seek to provide some of these protections and to hold those involved in such relationships accountable to one another and to society.

. . . .

V Sexuality and trust in relationships

Sexuality and self

Both sexuality and trust are fundamentally relational and grow out of the web of family ties and social interaction. Healthy, trusting relationships shape confident, healthy, and responsible people. We bring our failings, imperfections, and sin with us into our relationships, but part of living out the calling and freedom of the Christian in those relationships includes being the best we can be as individuals. This requires appropriate care for all aspects of a person, including the body.

We are sexual beings from the beginning of our lives. The ancient psalmist envisioned the divine mystery of our embodied lives long before science investigated our biological and genetic complexity: “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13). The realities of our sexual bodies are visible in physical features and powerful in less visible characteristics.

This means much more than that we are born with male, female, or sometimes with ambiguous genitalia. Our cells carry sex chromosomes and our endocrine systems infuse our bodies with hormones. In ways that are still not fully understood, we develop strong gender identities at a very early age. While there is still much to be learned about the biological complexity of human beings, we have come to understand that this complexity suggests a variety of sexual orientations and gender identities.

Sexuality and gender are features of each person’s very being. This is both a discovery and a gift, and a perplexity and a challenge at all life stages and in all relational situations. The medical and social sciences continue to explore how the range of human sexual identities and behaviors are understood, cared for, and regulated in various cultures and religions.

Sexual capabilities and experiences are part of life for all ages and physical abilities. One can experience the sexual in music, art, literature, and the beauty of people and nature. One can take sensual pleasure in food, touch, sound, smells, and activities. One can find expression for the self and for sexuality through the spoken word, touch, dance, music, and movement.

One does not need to be in a relationship to experience one’s sexuality. Bodies do not suddenly become sexual at puberty and do not cease to be sexual when, for example, there are physical or developmental limitations, menopause, erectile dysfunction, or the absence of a sexual partner. This means that throughout our lives we need to find life-enhancing and appropriate ways of giving expression to this complicated dimension of ourselves.

We all have sexual identities that will find expression in our lives. We have sexual feelings that we are aware of and sometimes need to be negotiated when we are interacting with friends, courting a potential life partner, working closely with colleagues, or sharing our lives with another. Moreover, we must evaluate and respond constantly to the ways in which the sexuality of others is expressed. We must respond to sexual stimuli in the environment, including the varieties of human touch, which may vary from casual contact through flirtatious appreciation to invitations to intense physical intimacy.

A healthy sense of sexuality is related to having a healthy body image. This church teaches that caring for the body and following practices that lead to physical and emotional wellness are part of the stewardship of created goodness.41 It recognizes that a positive sense of one’s own body supports a healthy sense of one’s gender identity and sexuality.

Sexually mature, healthy individuals learn to be comfortable with their bodies and are able to entrust themselves to others. They call frankly upon others to respect and honor their privacy, their bodily integrity, and their wishes concerning welcome and unwelcome touch.

Sometimes, it can be very hard to develop and maintain positive attitudes about one’s body. Too many people struggle for a healthy sense of body as a result of experiences of degradation or shaming by others, including family members and intimate partners. This church will support all in affirming and reclaiming a sense of healthy sexuality.

This church calls attention to the danger of embracing standards of physical attractiveness that exclude many, including the aged and people with disabilities, and which distort the understanding of what it means to be healthy. The young whose bodies are changing and growing may be especially vulnerable to idealized and commercialized images of a “perfect body” that play on insecurities and destructive self-loathing.

A holistic understanding of the interrelationship of body, mind, and spirit challenges such narrow understandings of beauty. It enables us better to affirm the many dimensions of beauty and to celebrate human variety and particularity. This church is committed to affirming throughout life the value, beauty, and health of the human body and human sexuality. It is mindful that physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual wellness contribute to a lower incidence of at-risk behaviors for all people, including youth.

Gender and friendships

This church also calls attention to the immense value of friendship for people in all stages of life. Human life in relationship includes many different forms of rewarding human companionship. Friendships express our longing for human connection, touch, and growth. They allow space for self-revelation in the shelter of various degrees of mutual commitment and regard. The ELCA encourages and celebrates all situations and initiatives that engage people in relationships of friendship and trust, both inside and outside the church community. It also recognizes the importance of strong social support for friendships.

Many of our understandings of our own sexuality and sexual relationships may be formed or nurtured through conversations and confiding in friends. Friendships may help us develop a sense of our own beauty and the integrity of our bodies. As with parents or family members, we may learn from friends a sense of caring and safe touch in trusting relationships. Friendship, like family life, is a trust that can be betrayed, abused, and violated. It also must be recognized that dysfunctional friendships may be detrimental to health, development, and well-being.

This church calls people to be good, trustworthy friends who support one another in mature self-understanding and healthy companionship. Friends together have the shared power and responsibility to contradict demeaning and demoralizing messages from the media about sexuality and to overcome the effects of physical and emotional abuse. Friends also have the responsibility to respect one another’s physical and emotional boundaries.

Community and workplace relationships are spheres of human life in which friendships and companionship can and do thrive. They are also places where trust and distrust mix in complicated ways.

Sometimes friendships become sexual in the narrower sense of giving rise to overtly erotic impulses and stimulation. Erotic interest between adults open to a romantic relationship can be a desired part of the growth of trust and intimacy. Erotic interest can also create conflicts and danger. These have to be faced honestly when one or both of the people involved already have made promises of fidelity to another. The conflicts and dangers have to be recognized, also, whenever one of the involved individuals does not welcome a deeper and more complicated closeness.

Reintroducing distance into such friendships or breaking them off may entail an acceptance of loss that requires courage and maturity. The violation of trusting relationships for sexual purposes is offensive, unacceptable, and, when criminal, should be punished accordingly. A particularly egregious violation of friendship is acquaintance rape.

Commitment and sexuality

Human beings remain sexual creatures for life. As a result, they must cultivate and manage relationships along a spectrum that runs from casual associations to intense intimacy. The deepening of trust and commitment is a lengthy process that requires deliberate attention and effort. Recognizing this provides a way of thinking about how people come to select life partners and about their sexual conduct in that process.

Couples, whether teenage, young adult, mature, or senior, move from a first acquaintance into a journey of increasing knowledge, appreciation, and trust in each other. This journey involves spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and physical dimensions of self-understanding. When these dimensions develop at similar rates, trust and entrusting are established and secured. When they are out of balance, trust may either not exist or disintegrate.

As trust and entrusting are established in a relationship, physical expression naturally becomes more intimate. That is, sexual intimacy would be expected to follow the same pattern of growth marked by the other dimensions of mutual self-understanding.

For this reason, this church teaches that degrees of physical intimacy should be carefully matched to degrees of growing affection and commitment. This also suggests a way to understand why this church has taught that the greatest sexual intimacies, such as coitus, should be matched with and sheltered both by the highest level of binding commitment and by social and legal protection, such as found in marriage. Here, promises of fidelity and public accountability provide the foundational basis and support for trust, intimacy, and safety, especially for the most vulnerable.

This is why this church opposes non-monogamous, promiscuous, or casual sexual relationships of any kind. Indulging immediate desires for satisfaction, sexual or otherwise, is to “gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16–19). Such transient encounters do not allow for trust in the relationship to create the context for trust in sexual intimacy.

Such relationships undermine the dignity and integrity of individuals because physical intimacy is not accompanied by the growth of mutual self-knowledge. Absent the presence of physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual trust and commitment, such sexual relationships may easily damage the self and an individual’s future capacity to live out committed and trustworthy relationships. Fleeting relationships misuse the gift of sexual intimacy and are much more likely to be unjust, abusive, and exploitative.

Although this church strongly discourages such relationships, it nevertheless insists that every sexual relationship entails responsibility. All sexually active people have the responsibility to protect their sexual partner from both emotional and physical harm as well as to protect themselves and their partners from sexually transmitted diseases and the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy.

. . . .