Weekly Grace General Blog
This blog contains lead articles in the Weekly Grace columns.

Forging Ahead

This will be my final installment of “In the Meantime” as a podcast and written blog for Grace Church. Churches and institutions such as cities all go through cycles of growth, decline, and rebirth. My time at Grace over this last eleven years has been one of preparation of the parish for rebirth and growth. It is time to name some of these emerging, positive signs of rebirth and celebrate them.


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The Penultimate Column

This will be my next-to-last entry in these blogs and podcasts. I thank you for your watching and reading. I thank you for your questions and comments. I have tried to keep these writings politically neutral. The challenge is that the ethics taught by Jesus can be the opposite of some political ideas. Changing the words of Jesus, or deliberately misinterpreting Jesus, or ignoring his teachings in order to stay away from certain hot-button topics would abrogate my ordination as a priest.


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The Answer Book

People today are busy and stressed out. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Americans pioneering the west were likewise too busy to sit down and wrestle with deep issues in the bible. The Roman Catholic Church produced the “Baltimore Catechism” which is a question-and-answer format to understanding the basics of the Roman Catholic faith. Although the Episcopal Book of Common prayer contains a very similar catechism, I have derided such things in the past as “paint by numbers religion.” But the point of the Baltimore Catechism was to provide a basic understanding of the faith for people who were too busy planting crops and managing farms to do much more.


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Freedom

I will not be writing this column on July 4, so as the Memorial Day holiday approaches, I wanted to take this opportunity to write about freedom. First, let’s define the term itself. Unlike the Latin, libertas, or the Greek, eleutheria, which both imply a sense of independence, the word “freedom” comes from the German, “frei” which has the same Indo-European root as the word “friend” or “dear” or even “beloved.”  Liberty and freedom both carry the idea of not being a slave. Liberty implies privileges of independence while freedom implies the rights to belong to a group.


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Three Forms of Justice

Beginning ethics classes will teach three forms of justice: 1. Procedural, 2. Distributive, and 3. Substantive. Procedural justice happens when laws or operating rules are changed to correct the harm done to one party by another. For example, voting rights laws attempt to create a level playing field for voting so that everyone has an equal ability to vote. Distributive justice provides a means of correcting a wrong by distributing something of value to the injured party or parties. For example, a class action lawsuit by people living around Pacific Gas and Electric’s disposal ponds for boiler discharge, enabled them to collect monetary damages for brain damage done to children and adults from the hexavalent chromium polluting their wells and groundwater.


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Off with their heads!

It seems like scarcely a week goes by without some statue being pulled down by a mob or some building being renamed or currency redesigned with a less morally fraught visage. The mob raises their fist in righteous indignation, “Thomas Jefferson was a bad person. He owned slaves. Pull him down.”


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The Eve of Destruction

In 1965, singer-songwriter Barry McGuire released his song the “Eve of Destruction” with lyrics that seem as applicable today as they were 55 years ago. China is sailing an aircraft carrier formation with jets and bombers flying over Taiwan. Russia is massing 80,000 troops on the Ukrainian border. Iran is enriching Uranium to near bomb-level concentration, Syria is a mess from proxy-wars, and Myanmar is approaching civil war. Climate refugees from hurricanes and droughts are streaming from Central America northward while U.S. politicians and trolls use the victims of a tragedy to score petty points.


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Rational Theology

For several years, I have relied upon a website as my go to place for in-depth and way out there etymology, history and theology. The commentators know the Jewish and Christian scriptures in Hebrew, Latin, Greek, Syriac and Coptic. They are scholars and they are also physicists and mathematicians. Their insights connecting theology to modern science are often profound. Recently I learned that this collection of scholars and theologians are connected to a place called the “Center for Rational Theology” located in Belgrade, Serbia.


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Teenage Terrorists and Thinking Beyond the Church Youth Group

No, I’m not talking about ordinary adolescent angst, but actual terrorists. This is a global phenomenon affecting Hindu extremists, anti-Semitic extremists, Trump supporters, racists, homophobes, and every other kind of nationalist or hate group you can imagine. ALL of them are recruiting teens.

Why is this happening?


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From Members to Disciples

I have never been comfortable with the classic, church definition of a “member” or what the Episcopal Church refers to as a “Communicant in Good Standing.” According to our canons (rules defining how the church operates), a member is someone who is baptized, attends church, gives to the church (is “known to the treasurer”) and who “works and prays for the spread of the kingdom of God.” The Episcopal Church (and most others) have all kinds of forms and reports for counting people and reporting on the spread of the kingdom of God every year.

But are these numbers and reports accurate and helpful in measuring the spread of the kingdom of God?


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