Archive | May 2014

Southern Baptist Pastor Accepts Gay Son, Changes His Church

This one incident provides some hope that eventually we will all realize we are children of a loving God and reach a loving and non-judgmental fellowship with each other. We need to pray for those who stay and those who feel called to leave. (deniray+)

    May 29, 2014

    Hi John,

    I wanted to introduce myself to you. My name is Danny Cortez and I pastor a small Southern Baptist Church in La Mirada, CA. We’re about a mile from Biola University in a very conservative neighborhood.

    Anyway, I recently became gay affirming after a 15-year journey of having multiple people in my congregation come out to me every year. I scoured through your whole website and read everything I could. And it was especially the testimony of my gay friends that helped me to see how they have been marginalized that my eyes became open to the injustice that the church has wrought.

    In August of 2013, on a sunny day at the beach, I realized I no longer believed in the traditional teachings regarding homosexuality.

    As I was trying to figure out what to tell my church, I was driving in the car with my 15-year-old son Drew when a song on the radio came on. I asked Drew who sang it, and he said, “Mackelmore.” And then he asked me why I was interested in it. I told him that I liked the song. He was startled and he asked me if I knew that the song’s message was gay affirming. I told him that I did know and that’s why I liked the song. I also told him that I no longer believed what I used to believe.

    As we got out of the car, I could tell he was puzzled. so I asked him what he was thinking. In the parking lot, he told me in a nervous voice, “Dad, I’m gay.” My heart skipped a beat and I turned towards him and we gave one another the biggest and longest hug as we cried. And all I could tell him was that I loved him so much and that I accepted him just as he is.

    I couldn’t help but think that my 15 year journey was in preparation for that moment. If it wasn’t for this 15 year journey and my change in theology, I may have destroyed my son through reparative therapy.

    My son decided to make a coming out video on YouTube on Feb 7, 2014 which he posted on Facebook. [See Drew’s video below.] I then told my church on Feb 9 about my new position. [See Danny’s video below.] However, I expressed that my goal wasn’t about trying to convince everyone what I believe, but that we should allow room for grace in the midst of disagreement. I shared that the body of Christ is segregated every Sunday between gay affirming and non-gay affirming and that there must be unity and love.

    Unfortunately, many weren’t pleased, so the church had to vote whether to terminate me or accept my proposition. On March 9, the church voted instead to prolong the period of prayer, study and discernment until May 18. We then invited teachers, both gay and straight, from both sides of the debate to speak to our church.

    The church just voted two Sundays ago, on May 18, 2014, to not dismiss me, and to instead become a Third Way church (agree to disagree and not cast judgement on one another—see Ken Wilson’s book, “A Letter to my Congregation”). This is a huge step for a Southern Baptist Church!!

    So now, we will accept the LGBT community even though they may be in a relationship. We will choose to remain the body of Christ and not cast judgement. We will work towards graceful dialogue in the midst of theological differences. We see that this is possible in the same way that our church holds different positions on the issue of divorce and remarriage. In this issue we are able to not cast judgement in our disagreement.

    Unfortunately, many who voted to remain traditional will now separate from us in a couple of weeks. We are in the period of reconciliation and forgiveness. Please pray for us in this. Then on June 8, we will formally peacefully separate, restate our love for one another, and bless each other as we part ways. It has been a very tiring and difficult process.

    All of this to say, I believe God is moving in beautiful ways. And I’m thankful that you were part of my journey through the many things I processed through your writings. I pray that you would be encouraged that a conservative evangelical church like ours has embraced the LGBT community.

    I am now in conversation with other pastors who are now wondering what in the world we are doing. I’m thankful for these opportunities. I pray that the church will no longer be segregated. I pray that those who have been marginalized would feel safe in our churches. I pray that we as the church would set aside our difference and learn what it means to be the body of Christ. So please keep us in your prayers as the road ahead promises to be filled with difficulty. Thank you again for helping me through my journey.

    Danny Cortez
    New Heart Community Church

Bless you, pastor Cortez. And bless you, young Drew. You guys make me proud to call myself a Christian.

John Shore
Below is the coming out video made my Pastor Cortez’s son, Drew. Drew’s honesty, sincerity, kindness, strength and sensitivity are extraordinary.

And here is Pastor Danny Cortez, Drew’s father, speaking to his church on Feb. 9th:

About John Shore
john shoreJohn Shore (who is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog. John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME, The Washington Post, and others. His website is John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance.

Maya Angelou, Lyrical Witness of the Jim Crow South, Dies at 86

We have lost a great woman, a voice for the ‘least’ and a brilliant author.


Maya Angelou in 2008. Credit Tim Sloan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

maya angelouMaya Angelou, the memoirist and poet whose landmark book of 1969, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” — which describes in lyrical, unsparing prose her childhood in the Jim Crow South — was among the first autobiographies by a 20th-century black woman to reach a wide general readership, died on Wednesday in her home. She was 86 and lived in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Her death was confirmed by her longtime literary agent, Helen Brann. No immediate cause of death had been determined, but Ms. Brann said Ms. Angelou had been in frail health for some time and had had heart problems.

As well known as she was for her memoirs, which eventually filled six volumes, Ms. Angelou very likely received her widest exposure on a chilly January day in 1993, when she delivered the inaugural poem, “On the Pulse of Morning,” at the swearing-in of Bill Clinton, the nation’s 42nd president, who, like Ms. Angelou, had grown up poor in rural Arkansas.



The Conundrum – What day do we celebrate as our anniversary?

0528140738aToday is the first day of the conundrum – we have always celebrated our anniversary as 28 May (seventeen years ago); then we got legally married in New York on 13 December, and had a blessing of our lifelong covenant on 17 May. What date do we celebrate? (someone suggested that we celebrate all three).

Our dear friend Lurline Speer Dupree, who had never crocheted before, made us this wreath to celebrate the major events in our life – here is her explanation:

Green is the color of nature, fertility, life. Grass green is the most restful color. Green symbolizes self-respect and well being. Green is the color of balance. It also means learning, growth and harmony. Green is a safe color, if you don’t know what color to use anywhere use green.

Green is favored by well balanced people. Green symbolizes the master healer and the life force. It often symbolizes money. It was believed green was healing for the eyes. Egyptians wore green eyeliner. Green eyeshades are still used. You should eat raw green foods for good health. Friday is the day of green. Green jade is a sacred stone of Asia.

Light red represents joy, passion, sensitivity, and love.

Pink signifies romance, love, and friendship. It denotes feminine qualities and passiveness.

There are many types of jasper; it is one of the oldest known gemstones. It is mentioned in the Bible several times. All jaspers are strong securing, stability stones. It is a powerful protection against things that are not good for you and it eases emotional stresses, making it a wonderful gemstone to have in your home.

There are 17 hearts.
27 jasper beads
13 random blings including beads with your initials and a shell

Honoring Those Who Made The ULTIMATE Sacrifice

Tomorrow is our annual Memorial Day holiday.

What do you think of when you think of Memorial Day – the beginning of summer vacation, barbecues in the back yard, family get-togethers?

In most churches Memorial Day is generally ignored because it is not one of the holy days on the church calendar. But I think it would be good for us to think about what Memorial Day really represents – its very name calls us to remember.

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day to honor and remember those who died in our nation’s military service. It was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873, and by 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. It is now celebrated on the last Monday of May.

However, it is not important when and where Memorial Day was first celebrated. What is important is that Memorial Day was established at all.

Unfortunately, traditional observance of Memorial Day has diminished over the years. Many Americans today have forgotten the meaning and traditions of “Memorial Day.” At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored and neglected. This is very likely because we no longer have a mandatory military service, but basically a paid army. It is ironic that the United States is still engaged in a war after 13 years – the longest war in our nation’s history, and yet, this patriotic and important day established to honor soldiers living and dead, has lost much of its meaning. While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades.

Not only do we salute and honor our military on Memorial Day, but also we celebrate our independence as a nation. Let us not forget that our independence was bought with a price—the price of blood on the battlefields. Thousands of men and women, supported by wives, mothers and sisters, fathers and brothers, fought for our freedom.

Think of the numbers of those who died to preserve the freedoms we enjoy today:

    Revolutionary War – 25,324
    Civil War – 498,332
    World War I – 116,710
    World War II – 407,316
    Korean War – 54,546
    Vietnam War – 58,098
    First Gulf War – 293
    Iraq War – 55,000
    Afghanistan – 2,223

Over 1.1 million men and women have died to guarantee our freedom as Americans. Today we need to think about those who fought and have given their lives to ensure that we could enjoy the freedom we have.

Notice the number of people affected by earlier wars is greater than those who currently serve – just another sign that we are far removed from the sacrifices of war with a volunteer military.

When I was a child (a military brat), if we lived within 10 hours of where I was born, we went back to celebrate Memorial Day. We laid flowers on graves, put flags on those graves of soldiers, visited those who came back from wars, and celebrated their giving to this country with parades and cook-outs and church services.

There wasn’t a resident in our little town, and in every town in America that wasn’t affected by the wars – we all knew a neighbor, a schoolmate, a relative who went to war to serve their country. They may not have had any choice because they had been drafted but many went voluntarily.

They went,

    they fought,

      and not all came back.

    When they returned, the town joyfully greeted those came back and mourned those who were left on foreign soil or returned in body bags. The wars and those serving were part of their community.

    Jesus told us:

        Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

    and that is exactly what Jesus did. . .

    and exactly what our fallen soldiers have done.

    The Memorial Day holiday was established to honor those who served, are serving and, especially those who died while serving in the military.

    Please stand up if you have served or are currently serving in the military?

      To all who are serving or have served and survived, we thank you.


    How many of you had parents, fathers, uncles, aunts, mothers who served in World War II or Korea?

      For all who served to ensure that we would continue to enjoy the freedoms we have, we thank you.


    Would everyone who had a relative killed in a war stand up?

      For all who served and paid the ultimate price, we ask for them eternal rest and peace.


      To all family members whose loved ones gave their lives in the service of others, thank you for your own sacrifice.


    Let us pray:

    Dear God, please look with mercy on our brave and selfless brothers and sisters, who did not shirk from their task but gave themselves completely to the cause of defending and protecting us all. Bless all who have given their lives for the sake of liberty, and grant them eternal rest with You. We remember also our brave men and women now serving in our Armed Forces, both at home and abroad. Dear God, send out Your angels to protect them all. Help them discharge their duties honorably and well. Please bring them safely home to their families and loved ones. Please bring Your peace and mercy to our troubled world. We ask this, Father, in the name of Jesus, Your Son, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

    Taps is often sung or played at the grave sites of our fallen heroes. Let us sit quietly as we hear this last respect shown those who have died to preserve our freedom.

    Day is done,
    gone the sun,
    From the hills,
    from the lake,
    From the skies.
    All is well,
    safely rest,
    God is nigh.

    Go to sleep,
    peaceful sleep,
    May the soldier
    or sailor,
    God keep.
    On the land
    or the deep,
    Safe in sleep.

    Love, good night,
    Must thou go,
    When the day,
    And the night
    Need thee so?
    All is well.
    Speedeth all
    To their rest.

    Fades the light;
    And afar
    Goeth day,
    And the stars
    Shineth bright,
    Fare thee well;
    Day has gone,
    Night is on.

    Thanks and praise,
    For our days,
    ‘Neath the sun,
    Neath the stars,
    ‘Neath the sky,
    As we go,
    This we know,
    God is nigh.
    Delivered at In The Garden Community Ministry, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 25 May 2014

    Happy Holy Week!

    This past weekend was beautiful — sunny (finally!), with bright flowers starting to pop out everywhere and little birds singing. Winter seems to have finally left, at least for a little while (I hear we are going to get more snow on Tuesday!).

    A friend of mine, said to me, “You must be busy getting ready for Easter. So what’s the thing to say — do you tell people “Happy Holy Week?’” “Well,” I said. “You could say ‘Happy Easter,’ when it’s actually Easter day, or ‘Christ is Risen!’.

    But until then it’s kind of confusing: there’s a lot of different things going on in Holy Week.

    Think about it. During Holy Week, we wave palms in the air and hail Jesus as king, the long-awaited messiah who’s going to save us, then we change our minds and scream that the Romans should crucify him; we share a loving last supper with Jesus and he washes our feet, then we sneak out after dinner and betray him. Jesus begs us to stay with him, we promise we will, then we don’t. We abandon him, he’s arrested and beaten; he forgives us, then we run away. Then Jesus is killed; we lay him in the tomb and weep; we go back for him, then he’s gone, then he’s back, and then — wait! — he’s not dead at all.

    We call this week before Easter Sunday ‘Holy Week’ because it was originally the time of the Feast of Passover when the Jews were saved in Egypt, and because of the miraculous things that Jesus did in the last week of His Life.

    We witness to Christ in song and story throughout Holy Week.

    On Palm Sunday we process with our palms and incense and songs. We celebrate Jesus triumphantly riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. Men, women and children lined the streets yelling ‘hosanna’ and waving palm branches. They were greeting the messiah who they believed had come to save them.

    On Holy Monday we remember Jesus’ throwing all the money changers and vendors out of the Temple. The Temple in Jerusalem was the center of worship for the Jews and they were required to present money and animals for sacrifice to the priests when they visited. Animal vendors, and money changers had set up booths in the court. People believed that God actually lived in ‘Most Holy of Holy Places’ the inner sanctum of the Temple. This desecration angered Jesus so much that he turned over the tables of the money changers and ran all the animal vendors out.

    On Holy Tuesday, Jesus spent most of the day on the Mount Of Olives, where he preached what we now know as the’ Sermon on The Mount’, telling crowds of people what the Kingdom would be like and how we could join Him.

    On Spy Wednesday we remember Judas Iscariot, a zealot, who thought he was doing the right thing by agreeing to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.

    He thought that if Jesus was jailed, the people would rise up and overthrow the Romans.

    On Maundy Thursday, Jesus shared a common meal with his disciples – this has become the celebration we call Eucharist or Communion. Many churches strip their altars and cover any icons and statues on Maundy Thursday in preparation for the mourning of Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday. There will be no celebration of Communion until the resurrection.

    Many other churches hold feet washings, washing each other’s feet, to commemorate that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. Jesus reminds us that we are to love each other as he loved us.

    After the meal, Jesus went to the Garden at Gethsemane to pray. He asks the disciples to stay and pray with him, but they all fall asleep. Jesus is left to pray for strength for what is to come by himself, abandoned by his own disciples.

    Judas then identified Jesus for the Roman guards with a kiss and He was taken away by the soldiers.

    We don’t know why this Friday got the name of ‘Good Friday’ – it certainly was not a ‘good’ day. Jesus was brought before Pilate, the Roman governor, and sentenced to death. He was then forced to walk to the Hill of Golgotha, carrying the cross on which he will be crucified. There is a commemoration of this walk called the ‘Stations of the Cross’ where participants remember each of the steps to the crucifixion. Here at Trinity, we do a Stations of the Cross around the Statehouse, interweaving Jesus’ trials with social justice issues.

    It is generally accepted that Jesus was nailed to the cross around noon on Good Friday and died after three hours. Many churches, including Trinity, hold a vigil with readings and music during this three hour period. The Bible says that when Jesus died, the world turned black, which scientists think was a solar eclipse in the middle of the day. Jesus’ body is taken down from the cross and buried in an unused tomb.

    Holy Saturday ends the season of Lent for Easter Sunday will be a celebration of new life. Holy Saturday is a day of waiting for the resurrection on Easter Sunday. Some churches hold a twilight or midnight vigil waiting for the resurrection; others have people praying throughout the night, waiting for Easter Sunday.

    The word ‘Easter’ comes from the German ‘ostern’, meaning the direction from which the sun rises, celebrating the spring sun, when all things return to life again. Some churches, if they do not do an Easter Vigil, hold a sunrise service to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus as the sun comes up.

    This is a day of great celebration with banners and special music and great feasting. We have left the penitential season of Lent and are reveling in the fact that with the death and resurrection of Jesus, we all have new and eternal life. All our sins have been forgiven with His death and have been promised a place in Heaven for eternity.

    So this Holy Week, think about each of the days and what preparation you can make to be ready for the festive celebration of the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday.

    Let us pray:

    Dear Lord, was we approach the week of the trials of your Son, let us remember our own shortcomings and vow to cleanse ourselves of those things that keep us from you. By raising Christ, your Son, you conquered the power of death and opened for us the way to eternal life. Let our celebration raise us up and renew our lives by the Spirit that is within us. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
    Delivered at In The Garden Ministry, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square,
    Columbus, OH 13 April 2014

    Jesus Is ALWAYS With Us

      Jesus said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:17-19)

    As you just heard in the Gospel reading, Peter was the first disciple to recognize Jesus as the Son of God. He understood that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, promised for more than a millennia. Just like many of the Jews at the time, he expected a Messiah that would conquer the Romans – a military savior.

    Jesus knew he not only would not conquer the Romans, but would be put to death by these same oppressors. But by conquering death, he would indeed overcome all things.

    Let’s take a look at Peter for a moment:

    Peter was the first of the disciples to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. All the other disciples recognized Jesus was special, but didn’t connect this man standing before them with the long-awaited Messiah.

    Because Peter recognized Jesus, he was promised the ‘keys to the kingdom’. That is a pretty big thing: dignitaries are often given the keys to a city to show how important they are. And Jesus also told him that Peter would establish his church on earth.

    Sounds like Peter was very secure in his faith. But, he wasn’t always that sure:

      • Remember when he denied Jesus three times before the cock crowed while Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane?

      • Remember when he was walking on water toward Jesus and then began to sink because he didn’t have faith?

      • Remember when Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him more than anything else? Remember how angry Peter got with those questions?

    Yet, after Jesus’ crucifixion, Peter and most of the disciples hid in a room, afraid to come out. . . not remembering that Jesus said he would rise from the dead in three days. They all lost their faith

    Yet, after his resurrection, the risen Christ appeared to Peter and other disciples

      • To Mary Magdalene at the tomb

      • In the room where they were hiding behind locked doors;

      • On the road to Emmaus;

      • By the side of the sea;

      • And even ate a meal with them.

    He was always there for them, even when they had lost faith.

    I know for me there are times that I question my faith

      • when things are going badly

      • when I am depressed or discouraged

    just like Peter and the disciples.

    But we all need to remember that Jesus is always with us – just like he was with Peter and the disciples – and has always been. When things look bleak or times get tough, remember that you can always call on Him and He will be there.

    Let us pray:

    Lord Jesus, may everything we do begin with You, continue with Your help, and be done under Your guidance. Be there when we are lacking in faith, upholding us with Thy lovingkindness until we can again feel secure in your love for us. Amen
    Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church On Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 21 August 2011