Blog

What 2013 Holds, and What It Will Require: Having a Winning Way

12/28

A fresh wind seems to be blowing these days. We see it in the decisive election of President Barack Obama to a second term and in the confirmation of marriage equality in Maine, Maryland and Washington state, along with the defeat of a restrictive constitutional amendment on marriage in Minnesota. We also see it in my church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), as we adjust to the opening of ordination to all qualified and called members (including our LGBT faithful) and in the first-ever discussion of same-sex marriage at our bi-annual General Assembly.

2012 has certainly served up the potential for a momentous 2013 even as we recognize that there are still formidable challenges before us. The Congress remains under decisive Republican control and over thirty states have laws or constitutional provisions that limit civil marriage to straight couples. In the PCUSA, the qualms of opponents about LGBT inclusion continue to threaten to slow or halt church discussion and action.

As we enter 2013, I would like to put forth, and try to answer, two provocative questions raised on the cusp of the new year: 1) What exactly lies before us this next year and 2) What will it require of us? I am very interested in your thoughts on these to enlighten my own.

What is coming in 2013: More work, more wins

What lies before us all in 2013 are the Supreme Court deliberations and decisions on same-sex marriage, as presented in the challenge to Prop 8 in California and in the challenge to the federal Defense Of Marriage Act from New York. In the PCUSA, we must take seriously the resolution on marriage that passed in 2012—one that called the church to study same-sex marriage—and have a robust conversation about marriage that will lead to overtures for action at the 221st General Assembly in 2014.

In both contexts, same-sex marriage should win. The right to equal consideration under the law to marry should be granted to LGBT Americans because the Constitution guarantees it. Ours is a country ruled by law, not by popular preference or religion.

It is, for sure, a good thing, that popular opinion on same-sex marriage has begun to turn our way. And the PCUSA is slowly waking to all in our heritage that supports same-sex marriage, from the biblical foundation in God’s love for embracing LGBT people and our relationships to our church’s historic tradition of honoring state law regarding marriage and the polity reality that a definition is not a rule. The discussion in the church this next year will lead the way to decisions in 2014.  When those come, we should win.

What is required of us: Approach with strength and love, not fear

A friend of mine was deeply involved in the effort in Minnesota to Vote “No” on the constitutional amendment to limit marriage in that state. She gave hours and hours to calling strangers. She told me she came to know when she needed to take a break, walk around the room, chat with other volunteers, regroup in her spirit because of what she heard from people in these conversations.

She knew she needed to make sure these calls were not debates, fights, tirades or rants and that was not easy. She knew she needed to, what I would call, “be winning” in the way she spoke—to approach the conversation from a place of strength and love, not fear. She wasn’t defending her position; she was sharing her joy and commitment to her long-time partner. It was the quality of her approach and her voice that was the most important impression to be left with the person called when they hung up. She worked hard to make sure these were real exchanges between earnest people who are neighbors, all Minnesotans together.  She made sure she “had a winning way” about herself every time she punched in a new number.

Reports from friends similarly involved in Washington, Maine and Maryland concerning TV ads, church coffee hour conversations and phone banking reflected the same commitment to “be winning” in every interaction. Our advocates were utterly committed to being strong and approaching these conversations without fear.

This is the approach we need to take in the thousands of conversations we’ll have in 2013 about marriage. What is required of us is this winning way to show others how our relationships reflect and honor marriage.

In the PCUSA, this kind of gracious conversation is what is slowly moving our church to embrace the kind of inclusion that Jesus teaches us. We must continue these conversations in the church in 2013 to open marriage so that it is as inclusive as our ordination process. We know how to reach people’s hearts and minds through this kind of winning church-wide conversation. We must start right away to do it again.

In our country, the Supreme Court will decide the same-sex marriage cases by interpreting the Constitution, but they will do it, in the context of national politics and mood. The court swims like a fish in the sea of public opinion. Though the Justices may not acknowledge it, they listen and adjust to it, which gives us much to do right away in 2013.

We must engage in thousands and thousands of conversations about marriage, especially with church people. We need to be strong, kind, attentive, honest and sincere. Agreeing is way less important than ending with both knowing that the other person is good and lives a good life, that the other is my neighbor. This endearing seed will bear its winning fruit, creating an atmosphere that pushes back all malice or ill will. And the Supreme Court will pick that up.

So I know my New Year’s resolution: to find the place in the PCUSA and our country where I can participate directly in these crucial conversations. Will you join me? And what else do you see?

May the peace of Christ be always with you,
Reverend Janet Edwards


32 Responses
  • Donna on January 2, 2013

    It’s clear to me that 2013 holds little hope for the working poor (under $50k workers). We’re now carrying a larger 6.2% payroll tax (up from 4.2%) for Medicare and Social Security… And gay working couples still don’t have the options for tax relief the same as straight married couples.

    From one analyst:

    If you’re unemployed, you’re a winner. You get another extension of benefits.

    If you’re employed, you’re a loser. Fully 155m workers are going to pay 2% more on income starting tomorrow. The increase in… FICA taxes will come to a lumpy $120B. This will rank as one of the largest YoY tax increases in history. This is a very regressive tax increase. There is a $108K cap on what is subject to FICA taxes, so high incomes do not feel the bite. But those who earn an average income will see a meaningful reduction in disposable income ($2,000 per household).

    One commenter noted:

    Obama’s strategy is to keep the country in chaos, one drama after another, so he can otherwise do what he ordinarily would not be able to do, like give Federal Workers a raise by Executive Order.

    The “fiscal cliff” bill, I believe voided that, thankfully.

    Why not an executive order on gay civil rights? Why not some executive order to enable businesses to get more people back to work? 355 million people in this country and 155 million are working, more than half are not. How can anyone think that is sustainable?

    The church and every Christian needs to be deep in prayer about our country going bankrupt. When this ship goes down, it’s taking everyone with it.

    Donna

  • Janet Edwards on January 3, 2013

    Dear Donna,

    So, as I understand it (and I am certainly no expert), this drama over “the fiscal cliff” was a mixed bag for regular folk. On the one hand, the Bush era tax cuts were made permanent;on the other hand, as you say, the payroll tax cut in the 2009 stimulus expired. This was not part of the fiscal cliff negotiations apparently.

    My own observation of Washington would not lead me to the conclusion of the commentator you refer to. I think there is at least shared responsibility for the legislative dysfunction in Washington. And the people’s interest will be best served when everyone seeks to have a winning way in their work with others.

    One of the most dismaying aspects of the past two weeks was how hard it was for so many Republicans to do something–anything–with Democrats. Until conversation returns between those who disagree, we will continue to suffer as a community. Of course, this undergirds my commitment to conversation both in the church and in our body politic.

    I agree completely with you about the need for all of us to pray though I may not share the depth of your fears.

    Peace, Janet

  • Donna on January 3, 2013

    I guess I have a couple things to say:

    – Payroll tax not considered by a President who says he’s fighting for the middle class and low income earners (working poor)? How convenient. But how glorious Obama made the rich pay more! (Revenge, not justice, enacted.)

    – Always the blame comes from Democrats on the Republicans. Why is that? Why don’t Republicans want to come to negotiations? Because they are constantly criticized for being wrong (although the Bush Tax Cuts were, let’s, see, Republican), and because they (and I am one) are always being asked to compromise their beliefs (in abortion, in spending, in the size of government, etc.), and then given bad press when they stand by their morals/beliefs (called stupid, obstinate, old, uncool, etc.). As for the “fiscal cliff” the House’s job was done in May (or was it July?) when they put through a bill that was never taken up for vote (or consideration/amendment) by Reid. Then after one-on-one negotiations, Boehner was brutalized by the press because he knows the stats on small business owner incomes and stood up for that. Respect works both ways…

    – The winning way is not to persuade others to believe as you believe. That is Christian Conversion ideology, complete domination via persuasion. It doesn’t work between Christians and it doesn’t work in politics. The winning way, in my humble opinion, is finding that space to make room at the table for everyone (in the church between pro- and anti-gay, and in politics between Democrats and Republicans). A “winning way,” “class warfare,” all of this is rhetoric and just another way of saying “compromise your beliefs in order to accommodate mine.” Belief in only one truth, one way doesn’t work for church or politics. Boehner attempted negotiation and Obama’s reply was “He just won’t say ‘yes’ to me.” There can be two truths and room at the table for everyone, but brutalizing the “other” is just another prejudice (See Mark 9:38-41) and it happens on both sides in the church as well.

    – My faith is not your faith, and the same goes with fears, because regardless of what happens, your experience is not my experience. Despite Obama’s persistent rhetoric, he has not helped the working the poor, but rather burdened them further. (Matthew 23:13-15) Two percent to me and people like me is a world of difference, whereas to you perhaps it is meaningless. And so we have as were in the days of Jesus, so much straining at the letter of the law (Obamacare’s 2,000 pages; funding bills where favors are granted and problems and pledges to peoople are downplayed, ignored or forgotten); skirting responsibility (think Bhengazi vs. Watergate), and not the meaning or inspiration of true justice, love, and mercy.

    Donna

  • Janet Edwards on January 4, 2013

    Dear Donna,

    You and I are in complete agreement that
    “the winning way is not to persuade others to believe as you believe.” I think our challenge is to let go of any expectation that I will persuade the other as well as letting go of prickly expectation that the other wants to persuade me.

    The difficult spiritual discipline is to both hold and share one’s own views and be open to learning or changing upon hearing the other’s views. This is what loving families and neighbors do. It requires a level of respect and trust that is clearly elusive for us both in our body politic and in the church.

    How do we get to that cooperative place? I think it begins with me–I commit to this and show how it can be done. I hope you see that is what I am trying to do. And I invite you and any others also with us to join in.

    Peace Janet

  • Donna on January 6, 2013

    Janet, if you truly embraced those who hold a view of an issue different than your own, then you would not seek to change their opinion to include or embrace your own definition by phonebanking them. Call it what you will, it is persuasion – whether it is to reduce the number of Republicans in Congress or turn things “our way” in the church.

    My disagreement with you is (and has always been) on method and not goal. Many times here I’ve proposed that a rallying of energy of GLBT people in the church is necessary toward goals befitting the glory of Christ: caring for the homeless, feeding the poor, prayer vigils, etc., so that by these fruits GLBT Christian should be known. Christ is the tie that bonds all Christians together; He is the space that makes room at the table for everyone.

    In all of His ministry, Jesus focused on doing the work of the Father, living the law of the covenant in the spirit it was given (not what it had become in terms of policy). Many times He warned against the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees, as was His place to do so as the Son of God, but He also directed His followers: do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.

    As for politics, I am a gay Christian Republican. I believe in equality for GLBT people, but limited abortion – if God knew before I was born, that I am gay, then He knows too those that are aborted, and I pray for the day God gives us the medical technology to make life, however early, sustainable, and renders abortion unnecessary. I believe in small, sustainable government and free enterprise which translates into a country that has low taxes, high GDP, and low unemployment. I believe in the Constitution and the guarantee of rights and a strong military to preserve those rights. Most of all, I believe in a government that serves and acts in the best interests of the people – by providing the opportunity for everyone to work toward achieving their dreams – not by undermining their abilities and hopes with handouts and increasing the financial burden of those still working with indecipherable and weighty laws. I thank God for every Republican still in Congress. It proves to me that this system, though corrupted in recent years, still works in its checks and balances.

    So, while your religious and civic maneuvering methods work, I can only ask, at what cost will that self-gratifying win come?

    Donna

  • Janet Edwards on January 8, 2013

    Dear Donna,

    Thank you for sharing more of yourself here so that we understand where you are coming from in your comments. It is really helpful for creating a dialogue. There is much I might say in response. I’ll share two things.

    My impression is that you have an erroneous understanding of both the PCUSA 10A phone effort and the approach of the Obama campaign this past year. In the church, we learned from 2008 that persuasion does not work, as you say, and adopted the methods of the successful 2008 Obama campaign for the 10A effort. This was not persuasion. It was finding your friends and then making as sure as you are able that they vote.

    In the 2010 campaign to pass opening ordination to LGBT Presbyterians in the PCUSA, we phoned supporters and helped them in every way we could to make sure they voted in their presbytery on the amendment. Likewise, all the calls made in the Obama campaign were intended to find the President’s friends and then to call them again before Election Day to make sure they went to the polls.

    Ask any who worked on these and they will tell you, we were cordial with those who disagreed with us and moved on. If volunteers could not do this then they found other needed jobs in these campaigns to do.

    And, Donna, all the LGBT people I know in the church agree completely with you that Matthew 25 is the test of our discipleship. This is the source of the Rainbow Corps trip sponsored by More Light Presbyterians to join other church people in New Orleans to clean up and rebuild that I participated in many Novembers the last several years.

    The wrinkle I see is that LGBT people often qualify as the focus of Christian compassion and advocacy that Jesus calls us to. Continued bullying in schools, the lack of protection from discrimination for LGBT people here and the American Christian support for laws leading to imprisonment or death against LGBT people abroad are just three examples of how More Light’s work is following Jesus doing the work of the Father.

    As I say, there is more that could be said but that is enough for now. Thanks again for your thoughts.

    Peace, Janet

  • Donna on January 8, 2013

    Thanks Janet. I think you’ve missed my point but I don’t have the wherewithal to continue.

    I think it’s probably been quite clear to everyone but me that I’m what you would call an “evangelical” at least in some sense of that word. Like I said in some other post, I did some serious thinking about my politics (and my religious beliefs as well), and the result is, with the change in the Democrat Party to (an even more) socialist agenda, that my beliefs fit better with Republican. As for religious beliefs, it became real to me that if I can be gay and Christian, I can be gay and a born-again Christian. That shouldn’t surprise you…just don’t make the leap that I fit into the portrait of Republican that the press and radical Democrats paint. I’m not rich, nor racist, nor anti-abortion (although I pray the need for it diminishes), nor anti-equality for anyone. When it comes to business and economics, though, I’m for what is sustainable, and what we have is not sustainable.

    Donna

  • Janet Edwards on January 9, 2013

    Dear Donna,

    I am very sorry I have missed your point I hope you choose to try again to help me get it. And I thank you again for sharing a bit more about your sense of your self.

    Your desire not to be pegged in any particular way or with any particular group is well taken. Perhaps we can agree that taking people as they are, without adding any assumptions, is one of the pieces of the puzzle of finding harmony in the church and our political life. I have been making assumptions about where we agree so your feedback on whether I am correct or not would be helpful. Finding that agreement begins to build the ground on which we can serve Christ in the church together or thrive as our country together.

    There are two places I see us agreeing. We both pray that the need for abortion diminishes and we both see the present economic/governmental structure in our country as unsustainable. I expect we disagree on how to reach a sustainable economic place as I have greater conviction that government has an important role to play in prosperity than you do.

    I don’t know how you see us coming to fewer abortions. In this arena, I do not think expanded legal intervention will get us there.

    There is a piece of wisdom I like: Participation is the key to harmony. One thing this means to me is that participation in dialogue is central to community. I hope to hear from you again.

    Peace, Janet

  • Donna on January 9, 2013

    Thanks Janet…I agreed wholly with Romney in terms of creating jobs. As for abortion, medical technology is advancing so rapidly. 25 years ago when I believed that abortion rights were intertwined with women’s right (as in civil rights), they did not yet have the capability to do surgeries inside the womb, or on extremely premature babies. Technology to support very early births has also advanced. So I would hope a greater awareness of newer technology, matched with greater research and development, would help, in addition to a greater emphasis on adoption as an alternative. I always thought the first tri-mester was a reasonable limit, but now I’m not so sure given the aforementioned. I suppose I hope it would be offered in counsel as a “last resort” consideration.

    As a lesbian, I can’t reasonably lay claim to Psalm 139 that God knew me before I was born and made me as I am, but then deny the “pro-life” use of it.

    Donna

  • Janet Edwards on January 11, 2013

    Dear Donna,

    Again, thanks for drilling a bit deeper on issues you care passionately about and sharing with us. Of course, I have thoughts in response that support a different policy outcome on these important concerns.

    But, to be honest, I have come to fear moving directly to that because our dialogue has fallen apart when I have done that in the past. And my priority is a dialogue. So I am most eager to hear what you look for from me to continue our conversation and I thank you in advance for that. Also anyone else listening in is welcome to chime in.

    Peace, Janet

  • Donna on January 12, 2013

    To be frank, Janet, for you to see that you have politized the process of winning the GLBT debates in the church. In your own words, you’ve borrowed from the Obama campaign’s processes. And I think you’ve supplanted the glory of Christ with the glory of winning this “campaign” in the church.

    You are a devout Obama worshipper and have written about how the election campaign was like church for you – and it doesn’t seem to bother you at all that this country is headed for socialism or communism, whichever you choose to call it, that seeks to deny the rights of individuals the freedoms this country was founded on. And I find that contrary to Christian principles, so I wonder, for instance, how you justify the current move against the 2nd amendment and the right of the people to bear arms, heightened by the instance of the slaughter of children at Sandyhook, and yet justify the government providing funding for abortions? I wonder how you justify supporting the logic of not requiring voter id because it causes a hardship to some, but support Obamacare which will impose a tax on individuals who do not subscribe to it (enforced by the IRS), and which will be very likely cause a hardship to many long-term unemployed?

    But I can ask as many questions as I like, and it won’t matter because you don’t answer them. You address the portions you wish to address and nothing else.

    Finally, it’s hard to have a dialogue or conversation with someone who presumes herself to be right and refuses to consider that there are truths other than the ones she’s come to believe.

    But it’s your website – it’s your prerogative to do as you wish.

    Donna

  • Janet Edwards on January 14, 2013

    Dear Donna,

    Your forthrightness here is both stinging and just what I asked for. Dealing with that hurt is my business–not yours. Continuing the dialogue despite that sting is exactly what we need, I think. So I want to share two thoughts among the many that have come to mind as I have pondered your words.

    For one thing, you hand to me way to much power to say that I have “politicized the process of winning the LGBT debates in the church.” I have said before and I am eager for your response to my conviction that politics is what we call the way groups determine how they will live together. It grieves me that it has gotten such a bad rep in our time because politics is simply not a choice for human beings in community.

    How we do politics is a choice. The PCUSA outlines its way of doing politics in The Book of Order and our country’s outline for how we do it is the Constitution. All I have done is participate in the structures offered to us in both cases for contributing to the outcomes determined by majority rule. This is the choice of how we organize ourselves in both communities and I have chosen to be engaged.

    Can we do our politics better in the church and the USA? I trust we both say Yes to that. In my experience, the most effective political process I have witnessed is in twelve step groups but even there what we deride as “politics” does creep in. Respect for every voice is crucial to healthy politics and sorely missing in both church and state right now. That respect for others is what I try to model and advocate for as I participate in church and state.

    From what you say, I understand that you do not see me expressing respect toward you or others. I have repeatedly found ways in which we agree and yet you hear me saying, “I am right and you are wrong.” If agreement does not indicate a willingness to consider the other point of view then I need your help to know what will.

    There is way more that I could say. I know I have not spoken to your direct questions. I hesitate because my expectation from experience is a dismissal of my ideas and I don’t want that. I want something that will keep us talking. Please give me some help on how I might answer on gun safety, abortion and Obamacare in a way that will invite you to respond.

    I look forward to hearing from you. Peace, Janet

  • Donna on January 15, 2013

    Hi Janet,

    If my questions and opinion are harsh, it’s because I decided to be candid and not mince words. If my questions bother you, these are the same questions this entire year I’ve dealth with politically and spiritually. There are harder questions to ask but not pertinent to the discussion.

    It’s obvious that what bothers me is the phonebanking and calling people, and the borrowing of the Obama campaign techniques. This is what I mean by politicizing the situation. Using political strategy.

    Let me ask you this, does the “other side” of the this issue in the church do the same? How are “they” addressing the issue? What is stuck in my mind is this: if you (plural) win this thing (every GLBT issue in the church) would you rather it be known that the win was due to your current methods or having made that space where Christ dwells between followers who disagree? To have an “evangelical” say, because of this I came to understand my GLBT brothers and sisters? Or to have an “evangelical” say, this is because of their methods to swing the vote and now we’re stuck with these people? I don’t know how much clearer I can be.

    I’m not your enemy, Janet, and I never have been. I believe in the goal but disagree with the methods. No one will ever convince me that there is a definitive answer on GLBT inclusion or whether or not it is a sin. It is unanswerable. And no one will ever convince me to say that one school of thought or the other is right or wrong, because I belive it is possible to “agree to disagree” and still live peaceably, still come to agreement on the value of life, the value of a soul, and that what all church work is to be about is the glorification of Christ.

    Maybe I’ve perceived this ineptly, but I think you think “evangelicals” are wrong in their beliefs, and I’m sure they think the same about you (plural). I don’t think it’s a matter of right and wrong, or a matter of justice, but a matter of how to get everyone to “agree to disagree” and reach that place where everyone can say “I can live with that” or better yet, “Christ is served well in that because…(you fill in the blank)” Have you ever read Stephen Covey? His work is based a great deal on Peter Senge’s work albeit in a spiritual sense though still in an organizational context.

    I’m reluctant to say how you should or should not be in posts, Janet. You are who you are. Express yourself as best you know how. I’m not as fragile as I used to be. If you prefer to send me an email, you’re welcomed to do that.

    And with all sincerity I ask your forgiveness for any hurt caused to you by my words. In all honesty, I felt the same sting when questions like that came to me during this past year, questions that forced me to see my own inconsistency and the need to align accordingly.

    I’ll hang in here with you if hang in there with me.

    Donna

  • Janet Edwards on January 17, 2013

    Dear Donna,

    Thanks again for responding. I have never thought of you as “enemy” and I am relieved to get the sense that you do not think of me in that way either. Surely that characterization of another in any community is a death sentence to comity.

    I think I have said before that my goal is also what you say: “where Christ dwells between followers who disagree.” My understanding of G-2.0104, which opened ordination to LGBT Presbyterians, is that it’s meant to do exactly that by making the space of leadership in the church one where all called and qualified ordained Presbyterians serve together.

    The first step in creating that space in Christ is acceptance that we are all qualified to be there. As I see it, that is all G-2.0104 did.

    Originally and ideally, the process of parliamentary procedure and majority rule that are central to both our country and the PCUSA was considered the best way to create the space we desire where those who disagree interact together in harmony. I say again that they can continue to serve us well, though, for that to happen, those who disagree need to be willing to listen to and speak honestly with each other. That this is lacking in both state and church is a central reason our politics is done so badly right now. I would love to hear your thoughts on that.

    Donna, you watch as I do, I expect, the activity of those who disagree with me in both church and our country. By your question about what they do, or how they “address this issue,” are you suggesting that I have some responsibility for their choice of action or that doing what those who disagree with you do is one way to create the space you and I desire?

    I continue to hesitate answering your questions on specific issues. My desire is to find our way to a Christ-centered process. We know you and I disagree on a variety of things. And I think we are making some progress on creating the space where we can have a harmonious conversation.

    I consider us to be fully equal in the conversation. I am willing to listen and learn. I am committed to being in the conversation. Are that other things you want to add to create a space in Christ for us? When we are settled on the process we share then I am eager to take up one of the important concerns you mentioned–gun safety, abortion and Obamacare.

    Thanks for hanging in here. I await your response.

    Peace, Janet

  • Donna on January 17, 2013

    Hi Janet,

    I’ll answer your last question first. With regard to process, first I think it’s important to always keep at the forefront “the whole” to which you are committed (unit, church, body of Christ, country, whatever) and that everyone in it is a contributor whether you agree with them or not, whether they have the power to effect change or not. Whether you or the PCUSA choose to believe it or not, you (plural) are on the “league” belonging to Jesus Christ, and that team includes Presbyterians, Baptists, fundamentalists, Catholics, evangelicals, Metropolitcan Community Church, UCC, and so on. Teams in their own right furthering the league, the Body of Christ. Second, when you’re on a team, there are types of differences – talent, beliefs, strengths, weaknesses – but what makes the team work is not just what people individually contribute, it’s the respect, commitment, and admiration they have for one another despite their differences. Last, I think members of a team recognize their responsibility for good and bad outcomes. A contributor can perform badly and a team still win, but what makes that contributor perform better? Not blame, nor denunciation, ridicule, nor punishment. Rather, encouragement, helping each other be the best, keeping the team’s goal in focus. Do you see the importance now of Mark 9:38-41? The disciples say, “We tried to stop him…” But Jesus says, “No…no one who does a thing of power in my name will be able afterward to speak evil of me.” In other words, we’re all on the same team, and the work being done is to His glory.

    In answer to your question about what “the other side” is doing. To clarify the question, do those who are against GLBT inclusion have and employ strategies such as the pro-GLBT inclusion folks with phonebanking, etc.? There a couple of reasons I ask. One, I don’t know whether they do or not. Two, if they do, then it’s very clear this is a competition and all about winning. To me it is contributors playing badly because they’re competing against each other and not performing with each other. Surely one or the other will win, but what glory will those contributors give Christ in their winning?

    If I can give an example, several years ago Arizona was blessed with a great strategic coach who hailed from the Pittsburgh Steelers team. Arizona hadn’t seen a winning season for 62 years. Compared to the Steelers, in my mind, the Arizona team were mediocre performers with a great strategist who taught them they could win. They had a winning season in 2008 and went to the superbowl against the Steelers, a team known for its athletic acumen but more-so, I would say, its ability to re-create high-performance teams over and over and over. The Steelers won, sure enough, and continued with high-performance team seasons. What can be said of Arizona? Strategy is only part of the winning. You can win and not sustain a winning reputation. And of the Steelers? Their reputation as an organization that builds a high-performance team remains rock solid. They can lose and still sustain a winning reputation.

    I think that explains my dislike for the strategy you (plural) are using in the church for “winning” on GLBT issues. There is no “performing with” the other team members, no respect among you all (both sides) that all are contributors, all are on the same team, all are Christians, and there is no shared responsibility for good and bad outcomes. Don’t you all see the church is failing and in its failing it is failing Christ?

    If we ever get to discussion on politics, you’ll have to know up front that this is how I also view the 2012 election. Like Arizona in 2008, the Obama campaign got talented strategists (in data-mining, marketing, etc.) and it worked. He won. But did we, the people, the country, win? I don’t think so. In fact, I think we’re losing more and more every day. Instead of upholding the freedoms, successful traditions, and the Constitution that made this country the best place on earth, Congress, the president, the Supreme Court, are peforming against each other, not with each other for the 350 million people they SERVE (not rule).

    I hope this helps.

    Donna

  • Janet Edwards on January 20, 2013

    Dear Donna,

    Thank you again for your honest and respectful comments. Once again, I share a few thoughts for further reflection.

    Though I shy from sports analogies for the church, I agree with you in your characterization of the church as a league with different teams and in your description of how this calls for respect and love for one another. I see as important the question you pose: What glory will they (I guess you mean the winners) give Christ in their winning? I would love to hear your own answer to that.

    And I will try to answer by telling you of an encounter last year that I had with another PCUSA pastor, one who disagrees with me. He asked if More Light Presbyterians would persist in seeking to expand marriage to lesbian and gay couples even if we lost a vote at the coming General Assembly. I said I thought we would. He laughed a little and said, “I know. This is the difference between the left and the right. The left loses, loses, loses until it wins. My folks on the right, win, win, win, then lose and turn to leave the church.”

    I say again, in a political process–and all communities including churches make communal decisions by some political process–the majority wins in current church and state process. It is how we feel and what we do about winning and losing that is the important thing. I desire, as you do, that all, winners and losers, would respect one another afterward and have faith that the outcome will glorify God. Of course, the winners already do. The losers may find with time that the outcome actually does. And they also have every right to go through the political process again to work toward what they think is God’s will, inspiring people to join them to create a majority. As I see it, this reflects trust in God and respect for everyone in the church.

    I think there is something really important in your reflection upon the last election and our country, Donna. President Obama is the first president since General Eisenhower elected twice with a clear outright majority of all voters. He, as well as his approach to policy, is the clear choice of a majority of the American people. There is certainly no guarantee that what the majority says is actually what is best but in an imperfect world it is what we have.

    I trust you and I agree that the aspects of comity that you highlight (there are no foes only other “team” members, respect for all, shared responsibility for outcomes) are as lacking in Washington as they are in the PCUSA. How do we recover them?

    Again, my own answer is to commit myself to them and, by really living them, serve as a model that will inspire others to do the same. The most important thing is that this is a choice. I choose to respect those who disagree with me, to reach out to them, to remember everyday that all means all, including those who disagree with me. What is your answer: how do we get to healthy community?

    As always there is more I could say but I think that is plenty to spur further thought.

    Peace, Janet

  • Donna on January 21, 2013

    Hi Janet,

    All of what I have said here in this thread applies to both “sides” in the church. What glory will Christ receive from this type of win-lose thinking if either wins? None, because win-lose is bent on domination. And for government, the same is true. The people as a whole are never truly served. You’ve not read Stephen Covey…or Senge, have you.

    I agree with the pastor’s observation and quote you provide above, and my take on it is that the “right loses and turns to leave” because they feel violated. It is always the “right” who must compromise their beliefs; otherwise they are criticized and called haters, lambasted in the press, and so on. And the same is true in civics.

    You may propose that Obama is the “clear choice” of this country. I disagree. It was not a landslide election. Out of 350 million people in this country, not even a full third turned out to vote. It was not an election based on issues, but one of marketing, mobilization, and data-mining, as even the Obama administration itself boasted in the WSJ.

    As this year presses on and Obamacare effects are felt by the middle class, small businesses, and the working poor, it will become apparent what we have done as a nation – how we let ourselves be goaded into believing a man whose promises are not kept, skirts responsibility, and whose intent is domination.

    What would I propose to bring about a healty community? I think I’ve answered that: recognition of who it is one serves.

    If you want specifics, here they are: repeal Obamacare; tax reform that includes 75% on the wealthiest (with a specific percent to cover existing programs for the poor and Social Security and exempting small businesses) and anyone making under $50K/year exemptfrom all taxes; revocation of executive privilege and orders; cutting the federal budget to the bare minimum except for care for mentioned above and the military (rescinding all external aide to other countries); eliminating the (corrupt and corruptible) electoral college; outlaw unions and mandate a reasonable minimum wage; do whatever it takes to bring jobs back to the United States; amend the Constitution to remove “classifications” such as gender and color, and replace it with “all people.” With regard to Social Security in particular, for low-income earners, I would propose allowing those who paid into it the option to do with it what they please after paying into it, say 30 years, such as receiving full payment or rolling it over into a personal IRA.

    The church, however, needs a “come to Jesus” revival.

    Donna

  • Donna on January 21, 2013

    “Our goal was to make all the decisions of the campaign as evidence and data driven as possible,” explained Ghani. “To measure the things we were doing and then allocate resources not based on the way people felt, but on evidence based on data we’d collected.”

    http://www.cmu.edu/homepage/society/2013/winter/analyzing-impact.shtml

  • Janet Edwards on January 23, 2013

    Dear Donna,

    I have taken a little time to ponder how to reply as I feel like we have circled round again. I’m in a quandary as to how to jump out of that.

    For me, this has been more a spiral as you have prompted me to clarify ground rules that can serve in nurturing conversation between those who disagree, as you and I do. That has been a good thing and I’m grateful for the push to articulate them.

    What disappoints me is this: as far as I remember or find, not once have you found your way to say something like “You are right; we do agree on that,” or “you say we agree here but, as I see it, we don’t and this is why.” Why, Donna?

    The opportunity is here for you to line out what the needed coming to Christ revival would look like and how this would further harmony in the church. If it entails ignoring the concerns (which are inextricably bound to our faith in Christ) that have roiled the church and our society for a generation, then it will just table the needed conversation, I think. How can that revival happen through the conversation about these sensitive problems? I’d love to hear your answer to that question.

    Donna, there are many things I could say to the specifics you outline. I just don’t feel it will be productive for me to share them given your response to my answers at the beginning of this thread. What you and I see as happening in our country, our prescriptions for how to address our problems and our expectations for the future exist in the realm of perspective, not fact. And we have not found a way to respectfully share our differing perspectives.

    I guess what I am saying is that I don’t feel there is enough trust for us to continue. If you think I’m wrong and have a suggestion for establishing the trust required to talk, I would love to hear it.

    Thanks for walking this far with me.

    Peace, Janet

  • Donna on January 24, 2013

    Hi Janet,

    I’ll think about this for a while. I’ve been to Michigan and back this week to see my Mom, so I had a lot on my mind and still do.

    Back in a day or two.

    Donna

  • Donna on January 26, 2013

    Hi Janet,

    Let me address specifics first. You wrote: “What disappoints me is this: as far as I remember or find, not once have you found your way to say something like ‘You are right; we do agree on that,’ or ‘you say we agree here but, as I see it, we don’t and this is why.’ Why, Donna?”

    Why?

    We agree, Janet, on the goal of bringing about the church’s (all churches) inclusion of GLBT people as equals in all church matters.

    We disagree on method/approach. You are utilizing a strategy that focuses on the win-lose structure of changing policy. Get as many votes as you can and change the policy and everyone will have to accept that (or leave). I propose win-win activities that include everyone in the process (like prayer vigils, panel discussions, increased MLP and/or GLBT presence in established church-wide programs like caring for the homeless) so 1) that Christ is glorified first, and 2) the fruits of action and service and impact of everyone working together are unquestionable and apparent. This addresses the biggest misconceptions held about GLBT Christians’ “morality” and “ability” to live a truly Christian life (where Jesus is at center).

    I’ve pointed these things out many times here.

    Albert Einstein once said, “The significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”

    “Win-lose” thinking is embedded in our culture and politics and has produced the problems we have today, even in our churches. “Win-lose” creates outcasts, dissenters, punishment mentality, and short-term solutions.

    For example, “win-lose” created steel tycoons and “win-lose” created labor unions. Now, however, “win-win” thinking is evident in companies/organizations who embrace the whole employer-employee relationship along with the environment and community in which they both reside, without employees needing paid representation. There was a time when caring for employees was needed, woefully, and the “win-lose” answer of unions arose. It was a short term answer to a long-term problem that eventually cancelled out the effectiveness of both parties, and put individuals as well as industries out of business. “Win-lose” solutions to “win-lose” problems result in everyone losing somehow, someway. That is a fact, not a perception.

    I hope that is helpful. It is respectfully offered.

    With regard to trust. You have said here above: “I choose to respect those who disagree with me, to reach out to them, to remember everyday that all means all, including those who disagree with me.”

    And yet more recently you wrote: “I guess what I am saying is that I don’t feel there is enough trust for us to continue.”

    Which brings me to question: do you mean what you said in that first quote or don’t you? And on whose part do you feel there isn’t enough trust?

    I am trusting in putting everything out in the open, saying exactly what I mean, and providing support for my assertions so they are not construed as merely opinion.

    Or is it that you have lost trust because I won’t simply agree with you?

    In either case, if you wish the conversation to end, then let it be so.

    I leave you in peace.

    Donna

  • Janet Edwards on January 28, 2013

    Dear Donna,

    Thank you for acknowledging that we agree on a goal for the church. I think there are a host of other ways we agree, as I have said.

    In particular we agree on the central value of including everyone in the a process based on prayer vigils (together), panel discussions (and roundtable discussions), and greater MLP participation in church-wide programs (of course LGBT Presbyterians have always been active in these even as the sticking point has been that, beyond the congregation, it is ordained elders, teaching and ruling, who are eligible to participate). And all of us share the goal of glorifying Christ and bearing good fruit. MLP has been at these things for decades. What makes you think we have not?

    What I see in what you say is that, for you, there is no place for a standard democratic political process (majority wins/minority loses, both keep going until there is a the next vote)in the church, at least, and perhaps in our state as well. Twelve step groups offer to me the best words to describe what you desire: Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion. You want convictions to attract until everyone holds them and then we will all live by them. Or have I misunderstood you?

    What I would say to that is this: Experience has taught us that this kind of consensus political model is unworkable beyond the size of a twelve step home group or a New England village or a Friends Meeting House. And even in these societies it often fails. Show me where it does work beyond that level or clarify how I have misunderstood, please.

    As far as I know myself, the reason I have lost trust in our getting to some helpful, vibrant place in this conversation is that we have come round to the same place of you asserting what you want in the church and the body politic and telling me that we in the church need to do what we already do. I need your help to know where to go next. I’ve lost trust that we can break from this circle.

    I am very open to your suggestions on how we might break out of it. I feel strongly that achieving that would glorify God and bear good fruit.

    Peace, Janet

  • Donna on January 28, 2013

    Janet,

    No, I don’t think you’ve understood me at all…if the immigration reforms the 8-person committee hold, it will be a fine example of what I’m talking about, although the proposed measures reached by two groups almost always at odds is right now a valid example. A win for both groups, a win for the gov’t, a win for the immigrants, and a win for all of the US. Maybe looking at that will help you.

    Until then, your will is your path.

    I leave you in peace.

    Donna

  • Janet Edwards on January 29, 2013

    Dear Donna,

    If I have not understood you at all, then please help me understand.

    It could start with completing your thought arising from the bipartisan proposal for immigration reform announced by the 8 Senators this week. What are your saying?

    Left to my own devices, my conclusion to what you suggest is that you offer this as an example of the kind of win/win you envision. It is, as I hear about it, the product of years of the kind of conversations you and I consider crucial to healthy community.

    At the same time, there will be voices and votes against it. When the vote comes there will be a minority. What are you suggesting as a way to keep this a win/win, Donna?

    And I need your help to know what you mean by “Until, then, your will is your path.”

    I think these clarifications would lead to further dialogue between us and I thank you for them in advance.

    Peace, Janet

  • Donna on January 30, 2013

    Janet,

    Look at the problem. That group of senators didn’t change the core right of citizenship but rather the path to it. Retention of the core belief, focus on the good of the whole, not taking from anyone, not denying anyone, but how to make a way for all.

    Your will is your path…you’ll go in the direction you want to go in, no matter what I propose or anyone else proposes.

    Like I said earlier, you’ll likely win, so what difference does it make continuing the conversation. If you don’t get what I’m saying, maybe one day you will and it won’t have been a wasted effort.

    In other news, last week a court found that Obama’s “recess appointments” were purposefully illegal. That doesn’t bother you at all? Nixon stepped down for less…Bill Clinton was investigated for less…

    Donna

  • Janet Edwards on January 31, 2013

    Dear Donna,

    Do you know, Donna, that I was thrilled at the proposal of the 8 Senators on immigration reform? What they said did, as you say, retain a path to citizenship, focusing on the good of the whole, not denying anyone and making a way for all (except, perhaps, the already citizens who might take the job held by the undocumented American). I don’t know what our dispute could be here though I feel from your comments as if you feel there is one. What is it?

    Donna, you are entitled to your judgments of me. The thing is I do not experience myself as being the way you seem to think I am. I do have a strong will. At the same time, I seek out others’ ideas and I test myself by what others say. Who determines who we are in this world, our own ideas of ourselves or the ideas of others?

    I heard Retired Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson lead worship on Sunday. He said what I think both you and I believe: God wins. So what does that mean for us? For me, it means that all of us are free to offer our slice of understanding of what will best glorify God and love our neighbor in our time and place. In fact, to be faithful, this is exactly what we each must do, always open to the ideas of others since we know we each have only a slice of Truth. And God bends the arc of history to love and justice. I pray I am an acceptable servant of God in that bending. Do you pray for anything different from that?

    Of course, I could respond on the lower court judgment against Obama’s appointments because it does bother me but I suspect not for the same reasons it bothers you. Why do you want to know what I think on this?

    Thanks in advance for your response.

    Peace, Janet

  • Donna on February 1, 2013

    Janet,

    Sorry, but I had to chuckle at your first paragraph, especially given today’s news that the unemployment numbers have been “revised” UP for Nov & Dec 2012 and the number of people leaving the work-force during Obama’s first term is a final 8.5 MILLION. Combined with the 11 million potentially new citizens, that is 19.5 million potential tax payers, if the President ever decides to focus on jobs. Otherwise they’ll all have to pay the $95 Obamacare tax at some point. That’s the kind of Hope a “majority” of the country wanted, I’m sure.

    I have no dispute with you over citizenship reform committee’s successful proposal. I was citing it as an example in support of win-win thinking.

    Why do I want to know if you are bothered by the finding that Obama’s labor appointments were unconstitutional? Because it was apparent that the appointments were purposefully done illegally and it’s legitimate to wonder how a minister, who supports Obama as firmly as you do, reacts to such an action. These are not things that are done by “mistake” or accident.

    Do I pray that you are an acceptable servant of God? Yes, which is why I comment here. Do you realize that this administration, like the church, carries its own sense of duplicity? On one hand, Obamacare has provisions to penalize cigarette smokers, but the other hand supports legalization of pot smoking? On one hand, it wants to take away gun ownership of the people (although it says “more strongly regulate”), because guns kill children, but on the other has offered abortion as a birth control method and formally funds it through Obamacare? That Obama promised help for the middle class and poor through ObamaCare by lower premiums, blah, blah, but that the reality is that insurance premiums rose by 50% and people are choosing plans with higher deductibles to keep their costs down? (My own prescription costs went up by 35% and I had to choose the higher deductible plan as well so my cost for that is also higher.) How will all of those new citizens afford health care without work? Will they also look to the government for support and can the government afford the load when it has already reached its deficit level? I could go on, but that is enough. Justice is the kind of decision wrought in the citizenship committee, which we do both applaud, but is it justice to allow a president to disregard the constitution, in addition to promoting conflicting problems as noted above? And, yes, how does a minister support these conflicting actions/philosophies? I think if you write publicly in support of them, and have a website designed for discussion, then you are requesting different opinions. But your own conflict is that you don’t respond to them, and learn from them, except to say that you are right.

    I applaud your sense of moral justice, both in the church with regard to GLBT inclusion and in civics in standing behind your man, but I have to wonder about your sense of reality in supporting these issues, when I’m pretty sure in all of them you live relatively unaffected by any of them.

    I don’t condemn you for that, but I do question the sense of justice you are supporting in both without the grasp of reality on both sides, and that is the substance of win-win: you have to realize that when you pick up one end of the stick, the other end also comes with it, even though that other end might be unseen by you and you don’t know what it will bring. I’m hoping by my input that you eventually understand that taking up the whole stick brings up all kinds of things you may not like but is still part of the whole, and whoever picks up the stick assumes responsibility.

    I’m also hoping that we all end up better servants of Christ, not government.

    Donna

  • Donna on February 1, 2013
  • Janet Edwards on February 3, 2013

    Dear Donna,

    So we come around again to your presenting your point of view on some specific issues and judging my ability to engage in a dialogue. This time you criticize my grasp on reality.

    My purpose is to have a conversation and to articulate what the ground rules can be for people who seriously disagree in order to build connection between one another. Hopefully, you and I agree that such conversation is necessary for the kind of win/win outcomes you and I desire. Perhaps we can also agree that the polarized factions in both church and state that you and I represent serve neither community well. We both want better facility at genuine discussion in church and state.

    To me, we are failing miserably here, you and I, in creating that facility. I have come to the end of my suggestions about how we might find a way to be moving “with” or “toward” one another rather than “away.” If you have any suggestions beyond your telling me what you see that you think I don’t and what you think my shortcomings are, please share them. And, if you think I have misunderstood, then, again, I need clarification.

    Peace, Janet

  • Donna on February 3, 2013

    Hi Janet,

    Suit yourself.

    Donna

  • Janet Edwards on April 2, 2013

    Dear Donna,

    I confess that I have no idea why you have shared this here. I can not see its relevance to the original post nor to our effort to have a conversation.

    I truly hope you will elucidate for us what importance there is to you of something you share here as well as its connection to topics raised here. Just as it is, it is more confusing than helpful.

    Peace be with you, Donna, Janet


Comment on this post