How Jesus’ Prayer for Us (John 17:20-26) Informs My Faith


Jesus prays — right before He is arrested — that we “may become completely one (John 17:23).” Wow.

Jesus’ prayer is raised up to God, whom Jesus called “Father,” “on behalf of those who will believe in me through their [the disciples’] word.”

I take these as words about us right now, directly about us. And since Jesus prays that we be one, then we have got to do it. This imperative is one way Jesus’ high priestly prayer in the Gospel of John informs my faith, especially as I think of the ongoing dialogue around being one in the body of the church.

I have never considered leaving the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). I know many have. I respect that choice though it makes me terribly sad. I understand the view that the unity Jesus is speaking of here is on a higher plane or in a spiritual dimension. I get that people can only stand so much.

At the same time, I look at staying or going in the light of the fact that every human community has tensions and problems. There is no greener grass somewhere else. I am made to bloom where I am planted. I believe God placed me in the PCUSA; this is where I am meant to help fulfill Jesus’ prayer that we be One with other believers in Christ.

I learned a lot about how difficult being one is through my years in the Community of Reconciliation in Pittsburgh, an intentionally interracial congregation founded in 1968 at the time of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and violent race riots across the country. After several years of prayer and study, the decision to become even more inclusive, by becoming a More Light church, came to a vote. While a few voted against it, no one left.

What holds us together in the Community of Reconciliation? What does it take to be one in the church? We work at it, together. We work at being one as Jesus prays for us to be one. Because of this the Community of Reconciliation continues to be an interracial, and an open and affirming, church where we covenant to be One in Christ.

Jesus ends this prayer for us in John, “So that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them (John 17:26).” There was a concept in “Formative Spirituality,” the program at Duquesne University where I received a Master’s and a Ph.D. degree, that clarified this for me. After all, the love Jesus is speaking of here is elusive and different from our usual, everyday, use of the word, “love.”

Adrian Van Kaam, the primary teacher of “Formative Spirituality,” called it, “form appreciative apprehension.” It means apprehending every person or thing we meet with an appreciation of who that person is and what he or she can become. That is love.

That God loves Jesus means that God apprehends Jesus with an appreciation for who Jesus is. And Jesus’ loving us means that Jesus apprehends us with an appreciation for who we are and what we can become. We love one another when we apprehend each other with an appreciation of the fact that Jesus is in each one of us. In this sense, love is a stance toward others — it is a choice. Through this love we become and remain One in Christ. This kind of love is what it takes to be one in the church.

And, by the by, one reason I appreciate so much the new G-6.0106 a and b in the PCUSA ordination process is the way it establishes our church on the firm foundation of appreciative apprehension — as I see it, on the foundation of the love Jesus prays for here.

Jesus’ prayer for us to be one is fulfilled not by agreement among us, but rather, in our love for God, for Christ and for one another. That’s how John 17 informs my faith. I hope you share with us how it informs yours.

Respond to this video with a video.


Reverend Janet Edwards

40 Responses
  • pennyjane hanson on June 3, 2011

    gosh, what a wonderful prayer. i can even sense some of that prayer as reality in the very early church. then it escaped and has not been seen since.

    i even wonder if that is a worthwhile goal if it means that we become less than “one” who follows Jesus, rather than who “leads” Him. i wonder how that can even happen if we allow for the “institutional judgment” on what Jesus can do with any one of us.

    how do the exegesis and the “post exegesis” become one? how does one become “one” with those who in their “post exegesis” state can believe with all the force that paradigm carries with it that they are now and forever condemned to dwell outside the love of the very God they seek? how do you become “one” with someone who (post exegesisly) says, “you may not come in here with me.”?

    i understand what you said when you said, “we work at it”. where i get lost is in figuring out specifically what work to do? how do you improve on perfection?

    i approach God with total submission. i not only realize that i can’t change Him, but i don’t even want to. how can i approach, as if i were approaching God, one who has already condemned me? and has condemned me with post exegesis certainty and sanctity? if i believed this were the case with God, i wouldn’t even bother to appoach Him, there would be no point.

    as with the chilren who refuse to even entertain the possibility of learning about Christ and the Christian God, i ask myself, “what’s the point?” how can i learn from anyone who has already condemned me and there is nothing i can ever become or do that will alter that (post exegesis) condemnation?

    these are the questions i ask in the practice of exegesis, not as the fulfillment of it.

    much love and hope. pj

  • Donna on June 3, 2011

    In order to be “one” in the church, I think it requires active listening, listening and asking questions until the person who is making the point feels they’ve been adequately heard (see Stephen Covey’s work). It also requires respect. If neither “side” of an issue respects the other, then there is impasse. I think, Janet, you can attest to this fact from the conversations we have had: mostly, I listen and ask questions and go off and ponder things, only to come back later with a phone call or email regarding clarification. Refraining from interpreting what the other person in terms of “me” or “my thoughts on the subject” is also important, because while you’re doing that, you’re missing, not listening, not hearing, what the person is actually saying, and you’re robbing them of their time to be heard.

    While I expect mine is the last voice you or anyone wants to hear, I very much want to post this because it’s been on my mind all day to do so since I read your blog this morning. I read here and sometimes write here because I learn here. My story is simple, after coming out, I left the born-again fundamentalist church I was raised in. That was 26 years ago. I’ve only been back to “organized” Christian religion since 2003 – eight years. I still consider myself a student and will forever consider myself a student. What this gives me, I think, is a perspective of knowing both “sides” of GLBT acceptance in the church, the Christian Church universal.

    Conservatives take Scripture very literally. That awful statement “Homosexuality is an abomination to God,” is based on Scripture. In the church I grew up in, there was little consideration for cultural context. There was little consideration for translation issues. How then did I come to embrace being gay? Through prayer. I earnestly sought an answer from God. Having been baptized in the Holy Spirit, I prayed in the Spirit, not knowing what I was praying in terms of language but knowing in general that I was seeking for God to “fix me” or “heal me.” The answer I received is what I hold to and will always hold to: “I made you as you are.” And God showed me that just as He made people with physical challenges, skin colors, and all of the diversity of this world, so God made me as I am. I got up off my knees understanding that I am not a broken creature or oddity, nor do I have a sickness that is need of healing. I am part of God’s wonderful creation, diverse as it is.

    Does that go against Scripture? It depends which scripture you read. It depends on translations and cultural/contextual study. It depends even upon the personal bias of the person doing the translating.

    Why do people still believe that horrible statement? Because it’s written in the Bible. Because they were taught, intertwined with the concept that sexual activity is “bad” or “dirty,” that this too was bad and dirty. And because of hundreds of years of pervasive hate, not unlike that which is perpetuated against Jews and African Americans, for example. It is a hate which is bolstered by ancient myths and stereotypes.

    In the conversation following your May ___ blog, I was astonished to read the confession that someone said they did not know much about cultural or contextual background of the text. They could have received it here, but didn’t (but that is another matter). I was also impressed that one who responded took offense at being called a “hater” and I don’t blame him. He is saddled with what he was taught and maybe was being forthright in his innocence. I came out when I was a fundamentalist Christian, and I didn’t know anything about gay rights issues, let alone GLBT acceptance in the church. I had to educate myself. There was not a plethora of information like there is today.

    I want to ask that fellow: Do you know that the Bible you believe in was once used to support the issue of slavery? Do you know that the Bible you believe in was once used to keep women silent in the church (and still is)? Can it be taken so literally? It has not withstood cultural change in these ways, just to name two. If anything, the whole of the Bible shows an ever-progressing inclusivity to all people. Does anyone else see that or am I crazy?

    Another thing I think conservatives perceive about GLBT people, is that the sexual activity itself is “dirty” or “bad.” I think even if the Bible wasn’t interpreted as saying homosexual activity as an abomination, this would remain. Why? Because of the sexual politics the church has to not educate itself about sexuality. GLBT people, I think, are regarded as “lustful” and following a desire that is unnatural, as if heterosexuality is natural for everyone. There millions of gay and lesbian people who attest that they never desired to be with the opposite sex. What is natural for them? I think about this and the answer I received from God, and I can only think that if God made me the way I am, then it is perfectly natural for me to be attracted to the same sex. It would be unnatural for me to do anything different, just as it would be unnatural for a heterosexual person to have homosexual sex.

    I would like to ask a conservative Christian how they can possibly group gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people with rapists, pedophiles, murderers, and the like, when the clear difference is that same sex sexual activity does no harm to anyone and is borne of genuine love and affection?

    There must be some confusion with the myth that GLBT people are promiscuous, which may be true of some GLBT people, but not all. In consideration of GLBT Christians, this concept of promiscuity just doesn’t fit. Rather, we see the opposite, GLBT Christians seeking long-term, life partnerships, raising children, going to church, wanting to serve the Triune God Who is the center of their lives.

    With regard to your question about being “one,” in other posts, I asked whether it is possible to come together in prayer, but the idea was disregarded amidst the anger there. I think if people really cared and respected one another, there would be a chance for the PC(USA) to be one. If Frank can recall the goodness of his gay friend, maybe he can see his way to seeing the goodness in other gay people. Unfortunately, everyone entangled in this issue is full of fear. Prayer conquers fear; earnest prayer for what God wants and not what we want will provide an answer.

    As for leaving a church one loves, well, sometimes the politics is too much, sometimes the fear is too much. I admittedly don’t do well with conflict and will keep silent in the face of oppression, but I also consider myself only a student in all of this. I must listen. I must seek God’s will for my life. I must love all people (that is what God expects of me, and I’ve survived being good to those who persecuted me, so God’s not wrong, people just want to follow their own will not God’s). I must respect every person – in person or in a blog. Until we can all pray together in earnest for that answer from God, that is all I can do.

    There are several reasons I don’t want to be PC(USA), some I choose not discuss, but primarily, I see no future in it, and I can’t grasp the inconsistency of its policies: blessing GLBT holy unions but not marriages, welcoming GLBT members (and their gifts – talents and money) but not allowing them to serve in official capacities, and until the recent vote, forcing GLBT candidates to lie about their sexual orientation. These reflect a deeply seeded schism in the PC(USA)’s psyche with regard to GLBT people. Having lived a difficult life already, my personal doubt is that I’m not capable of more conflict, more sorrow, and I’m not up for my own GLBT “people” criticizing me, trying to make me appear foolish, because I don’t believe that being GLBT gives anyone the right to behave badly. I want peace, love, and joy in my life.


  • Janet Edwards on June 3, 2011

    Dear Donna and pj,

    I am touched again by the grace you both offer to us by sharing your thoughts here–Thanks!

    What a provocative question: How can I approach, as if I were approaching God, one who has condemned me?

    I hope you both, and others, will offer your best answers to this.

    My stab at it begins with the observation that this other person’s condemnation only has power when we give it to him or her. What that person thinks or says is what that person thinks of says. Period. That person’s words only have the power we give to them. Even if that person claims to be speaking in accord with God that is simply that person’s claim.

    I can begin to approach that person as a child of God, just like me, when I withdraw from that person the power he or she would like to have probably, but can not have from me. I hope that makes some sense.

    And how do I refrain from handing power over to that person condemning me? By prayer, at the very least.

    And I know both of you are experienced in prayer so I am very interested in your ideas regarding how prayer can help you be one with others, as Jesus desires us to be, even when those others judge you.

    Donna, I grieve that our double mindedness in the PCUSA leaves you with no future among us. I also know there is a ministry our there for you and you are on the road to it.

    I hope I hear again from you both. And from others.

    Peace, Janet

  • pennyjane hanson on June 3, 2011

    thank you for this loving post, donna.

    i have heard janet and you both now say how you think we can become “one”, and both explanations are very, very beautiful and wonderful ways of living life…but, can i ask you this:

    we’re you able to become *one* with the old, conservative church you grew up in, with or without prayer, were you able to become as *one* with pc(usa)?

    i’m swear, i’m not trying to bash you, but if this is the way, i’d like to see some evidence, show me where you have become as *one* with anyone whose beliefs are so diametic to your own.

    i wish frank had answered your question, i wish bill had answered janet’s…i wish either of them had answered any of mine.

    well, bill did answer one of my questions, he said that when Jesus said ALL he meant to say ALL WHO……….”

    when i called frank a hater, i meant it. you know hate not by how well spoken it is, how genteel, but by it’s results.

    “you will know them by their fruits” a passage that comes up to me over and over again.

    when people read scripture i wonder if they even know that “homosexual” was not even recorded as a word until the middle part of the 19th century. it has to be interpreted, it has to be translated, there was no such word when the cannons were established.

    knowing (post exegesisly) exactly what is meant by, “homosexuality is an abomination to God” is impossible in that context…it has to be interpreted and examined in it’s historical context…things conservatives tell us, with scorn, is eiegesis.

    how do we become *one* with those folks? sweeping the issues under the rug, or seeking only common ground, it seems to me, is at best a delaying action.

    you and i share a lot of common ground and we are shoulder to shoulder on that one funadmental issue…we are not second class citizens in God’s eyes. God made us and loves us exactly as He made us.

    i don’t see how i can ever become *one* with anyone until they share that fundamental belief with me…until then, we will be divided at our cores.

    i take Jesus at His literal Word on that one passage…”all who believe in Me will know the kingdom of God” and i fundamentally disagree with anyone who qualifies the *ALL*.

    i thank you for this beauiful, well written, kind and genteel post…but i have to say, i seriously doubt it will be engaging to anyone who disagrees with your fundamental concept.

    much love and hope. pj

  • Donna on June 3, 2011

    PJ, you ask if I have been able to become one with the PC(USA). Yes, I think was at one with it, but it is quite like being in a bad relationship, to me, where one person is aware of the problems and knows mediation or therapy is needed and the other does not. Covenanting with a church is like a marriage – it promises to grow you as a new member and help you, no matter what – just as the new member promises to give to and serve God in the congregation. So, yes, I was at one with the church, but it is not at one with me. I’ve had a difficult life and righting this relationship with the PC(USA) is not my “calling.” Or perhaps it is and I need to follow my own advice and seek what it is God wants from me, and not what I want. I need peace, love, joy, and settledness in my life. God knows this more than anyone…and God knows I can’t continue to give without replenishment.

    Was I one with the church I grew up in? I was a young girl, 21, more naive then than I am now, and I’m still fairly naive. I loved my church and the very active presence of the Holy Spirit. But my pastor did what most ultra-conservative Christians would’ve done back then (and I suppose even today): gave me over to a “reprobate mind.” That’s Biblical. It gives someone an “out” to give up on someone to whom you can’t reach. It’s an awful experience, hurtful, but God rules and has gone before me in every step I’ve ever taken. That’s what God does: takes the bad things that happen to people and makes them into something good. So, no, I’ve not gone back there and don’t plan to.

    However, I did have a wonderful experience at a UCC church in Arizona, one I miss very much, which was clearly the most diverse church on this planet, but was just as clearly able to worship in unity and perform service to God together in their community. They took their membership covenant seriously and strove to keep every member who joined. I am still a member. When you can walk into a church and feel God’s love there without even knowing anyone in the congregation, you know they are doing something right there.

    How do you approach someone whom you feel hates you? With kindness, by giving and doing for them in the way Jesus would want us to, even if you don’t want to. I think even if you have to force yourself to be kind to someone, God blesses that and nurtures it. You give of yourself to God for that person and God blesses it.

    I would not recommend putting yourself into a church where you’re going to be browbeat by homophobia, or arguing with a Fred Phelps at a gay parade, but that is different than someone inquiring here on the blog about things. There are people who don’t wish to listen at all, PJ, and there are people God leads to inquire. This is a place where they can come to inquire. And even if they end up spewing hate, then it is still the way of Christ to bless them. That is all I know to do. It hurts, but you have done right by the Lord and that is what counts. How you handle yourself, how you walk the walk of Christ, may speak louder and cause more to happen in the power of Christ than you could ever do in your own words and power.

    I don’t know if that is a sufficient answer or not.


  • pennyjane hanson on June 3, 2011

    hi donna. your explanation of becoming *one* with pc(usa) tells me that we are thinking of different things when we say that. i cannot see one becoming *one* with another who is not *one* with them. to me, they are two.

    i do understand what you mean when you talk about walking into the ucc in arizona and feeling God at work there…i had that same experience when i first walked in to fpc here in bloomington, and like you, i didn’t know a single soul in there. it was wonderful, and i really do hope your experience with ucc turns out to be as wonderful as mine has been with fpc.

    had i walked into another pc(usa) church somewhere, my experience might not have been nearly as positive.

    approaching each other with kindness is certainly the goal of any christian, i think. but, we all have our boiling points, donna, even you. you have to admit that you have not always treated me with love and kindness on this site. you have become downright aggravated with me and have displayed your frustration with some pretty mean spirited responses…as have i with you.

    none of us are above that sort of thing, it seems.

    i will try to relate it in a way that isn’t quite so close to you i’m sure. when a soldier displays a lack of courage in combat, you’ll usually find that his peers are the ones least critical. those who have been there know that they are always on the verge of breaking and running, none have acted as courageously as they would have liked. we know that everyone has a breaking point and that guy who did run, had simply reached his. it’s a “there but for the grace of God go i.” thing.

    it seems that can sometimes be lost in the mix…we all (even you) have our breaking points…perhaps i reach mine a little sooner than you reach yours…but we will both say things that do not bring glory to God given the right provocation. knowing i have my point, i think, makes me a little less willing to harshly judge others who have reached theirs.

    does that make any sense to you?

    sweet janet. i did not ask that question “how do you approach another as you approach God knowing they have condemned you” rhetorically. it’s a real question that i am searching for a real answer to.

    i approach God as i approach One who i know loves me in amazing ways, One who is not only not quick to condemn me, but as One who will go to about any length to avoid that end. that’s how i view God, One who loves me so much that it would break His heart to end up having to condemn me.

    i just cannot approach one who has already condemned me with the same attitude. it’s not that i fear their judgment, i know for sure who my Judge will be, but i just cannot respect that person. not only does that person not have any power over me, he actually doesn’t even have any influence, his foundation is weak, everything that stands on that foundation is suspect.

    if one condemns another based on the condition of their birth, than all that arises from them is superficial. i think Jesus put it like this in a parable: you can’t grow good fruit on a bad tree. you can’t grow apples on an orange tree.

    you can’t grow love on a hate tree.

    my own human wariness will not permit me to approach a hate tree as if it were a love tree.

    much love and hope. pj

  • Donna on June 3, 2011

    Yes, PJ, all we can do is try to show the love of Christ, and we may fail every time, but we must try. Purposeful provocation? I don’t know about that…

    I think it’s important not to see hate and anger everywhere, though. I know the people in the church I grew up are very loving and caring. This I know for a fact.

    Do you believe in forgiveness?


  • pennyjane hanson on June 4, 2011

    yes, donna…ask forgivenss once, once forgiven. ask forgiveness 70×7000 times, and so forgiven.

    i am naturally given to forgiveness, in fact one need not even ask for my forgiveness, the minute i sense even the slightest contrition, it appears.

    you may not see it, donna, but i do. when this “theology” that frank speaks of, the intellectual theology that forever condemns certain people, from birth through eternity, to a life outside the Body of Christ is ongoing and without even the slightest hint of contrition, or even an ounce of responsibility, recognition…i can’t even begin to forgive them. that’s the kind of forgiveness that is, again, above my paygrade, that’s a matter God will have to deal with.

    i don’t (by choice) live in a peaceful, joyful world filled with nothing but loving worship of my Lord and Savior. i (by choice) live in a world where the effects of that intellectual theology are clearly evident. i am daily engaged with the victims of that theology, the theology of those most loving and caring people you speak of in your old church.

    just as i am saddened by your withdrawal from active engagement….you have so much to give, in my opinion…i don’t judge you for it…you have reached your breaking point, “there but for the grace of God go i”. i don’t forgive you for that, there is nothing to forgive.

    but that intellectual theology that drives children away from the Body of Christ, that theology that produces hate, violence and the absense of God…that i could forgive, were i to sense contrition. i don’t see how we can forgive sin that is unfulfilled, the sin which is incomplete, it is ongoing.

    just as i will never repent nor seek forgiveness, in fact i find forgiveness laughable, for having been born with a propensity for loving (in every way) people of my same gender, neither does frank, or those kind and loving people from your old church, seek forgiveness. why would they repent and ask forgiveness even once for what they see in the same way i see my “sin”? unforgivable.

    “if a man asks forgiveness once, forgive him once, if he asks forgiveness 70×7000 times, forgive him that many times.” drawing meaning from that, some surely say reading meaning into it, i can deduce that if a man asks forgiveness not at all, then he can be forgiven not at all. repentance begins (only begins) with an acknowledement of sin.

    and on a more personal note, donna. i have shown contrition, demonstrated it, for the harsh way i have treated some people on this site. and i have taken active steps to make amends and publicly promised to adjust my ways and have asked forgivenss.

    does that make me worthy of forgivness?

    have you sought forgiveness for the mean and hateful ways you have treated me? have you even yet displayed the slightest contrition? from my perspective, you remain as you were, above suspicion, sinless in the whole matter.

    do i believe in forgiveness?

    yes, very much so…and i don’t take it lightly.

    i hope you don’t take this as “bashing”, it is not…it’s just relating my perspective, giving my answer to your question.

    much love and hope. pj

  • Janet Edwards on June 4, 2011

    Dear Donna and pj,

    Reading your dialogue is both delightful and extremely thought provoking for me–I am thrilled that you are back at it together!

    I have two thoughts that arose as I read your comments. I cherish your further response to them and the thoughts of others.

    First, I think we are suffering, as the church does, by understanding our being one in Christ as being in agreement. I come back again to what I see as a requirement to reach out to those who disagree with me even virulently or aggressively. Particularly, if I want to protect others from the words and deeds of that person, engagement is the only way to do that.

    Pushing that person away leaves them free to continue what they say and do. And engagement will not happen if I approach them with aggressive condemnation. The only road to protecting the vulnerable is to engage and engagement requires that I seek out the image of God in the other.

    We have a serious spewer of hate here in my hometown and I pray for him every day. My prayer today is, “Comfort us, dear Christ” from 2 Corinthians 7. I pray this for him and when I do I place before Christ the child of God that he is, not the hate that he spews. I find, because I do this every day, I am better able to see Christ in this man when we run into one another. Engagement ma not happen but there is more potential for it.

    Second, I was hugely helped by a definition of forgiveness I read in an issue of Weavings many years ago. “Forgiveness is to release the other from the sentence of your judgment.” I like this because it allows me my judgment–it does not dismiss that. At the same time, it acknowledges that ultimately it is God who judges and sentences, not me.

    I also like the double meaning of “sentence” because it can refer to my words as well as my chosen punishment for that person. I do better, actually, not to share either of those, my version of his or her offenses or my assessment of penance. To refrain from sharing those things, in fact, is to forgive.

    I hope these make some sense to anyone reading this. And I thank you in advance for your further reflections.

    Peace, Janet

  • Donna on June 4, 2011

    Hi PJ,

    Being able to see the goodness in others, despite their personal theology, takes work. I marvel at the parents of Matthew Shepard, who forgave their son’s killers in the name of Christ. I marvel at the many GLBT people who have been deeply wounded by homophobic Christians and yet find a way to come back to a church, and still believe in the goodness and eternal love of Christ. It bears witness of their faith and love for God, and how great it is! The truth of the matter is that God loves those who wound and those who are wounded – we are all His children. Through Christ God has given us forgiveness without our even asking, and so perhaps we can approach others the same way. This is something God has shown me in my own life because I held onto the anger I felt over unjust situations in my life. When I let it go, I began to see the people who caused the injustice are just people, capable of God’s greatest good in this world, or the worst harm. And so are we all. Happiness and joy comes in choosing to delight in my faith in God, regardless of what happens.

    PJ, what you see in my writings here as a “breaking point” or anger and meanspiritedness is your perception. Your knowledge of who I am is limited as mine of who you are is as well. We are all in different places in our journey with Christ.


  • pennyjane hanson on June 4, 2011

    yes, donna, my perception of you is totally limited to the words you have shared on this site. such as the words you used to accuse me of wishing death upon another’s child.

    then, donna, even after re-reading what i actually said, and even printing it out for us…you persist in that ugly, mean spirited, totally dishonest judgment of me.

    until you at least recognize it, i find forgiveness unapproachable. i even suspect God has a hard time with forgiveness for the unrepentant…that’s just my suspicion, i don’t speak for God.

    yes, what i have seen as mean-spirited, angry and even totally untrue in your words are my perception…i own it, but it makes it no less real.

    as you say, my perception of you is limited only to what i have seen from you on this site.

    talking the talk of Jesus is awfully easy for anyone, even an atheist can do that…but, as you have said, and i find much truth in, walking that walk is another whole thing indeed.

    the master does not serve the slave, a self appointed master serves only herself.

    this is my perception. i wish you really would try to see the world through my eyes, i wish you really would show some sign that you really do see some of the face of Jesus in me. not one kind or encouraging word have i percieved from you about me.

    all i have precieved from your posts as concerns me is judgment. you don’t see the face of Jesus in me at all. i get instruction from you…”be more like me and less like you.”

    you have not engaged me (as i percieve) in any meaningful way, just instructed as a master directing a slave, not a servant of The Master.

    yes, this is my perception, i own it. it is not THE TRUTH, it is only the truth as i percieve it. i own that my view of the whole world is perception, i am NOT, nor do i speak for, GOD.

    this is getting awfully close to what i’m sure you percieve as “bashing”, so i think i’d better just disengage, in order to be true to my oath.

    much love and hope. pj

  • Donna on June 4, 2011

    Hi Janet,

    I think after all these years a lightbulb finally came on in my brain with these sentences: “I come back again to what I see as a requirement to reach out to those who disagree with me even virulently or aggressively. Particularly, if I want to protect others from the words and deeds of that person, engagement is the only way to do that.”

    I will do well to learn from you in this.


  • Donna on June 4, 2011


    My assumption has been that we were already seeing Christ in each other.


  • pennyjane hanson on June 4, 2011

    hi donna. would that assumption be anything like your “perception”?

    i can recall quite often, accusing you of being kind and loving…i have even accused you have being very perceptive.

    i have accused your voice of being needed and valuable.

    i have given every sign of seeing the face of Jesus in your being…that, of course, being only my perception.

    so, it’s not much of a leap to assume that i see the face of Jesus in you.

    the flip side of that assumption requires a bit more imagination.

    much love and hope. pj

  • Donna on June 4, 2011


    My assumption has been that we were already seeing Christ in each other.


  • pennyjane hanson on June 4, 2011

    thank you donna, that’s very “engaging” of you.

    may the Lord bless you with love and hope.

  • Donna on June 4, 2011


    I don’t wish to be the subject/topic.


  • pennyjane hanson on June 4, 2011

    there! we have found common ground…neither do i!

  • Donna on June 4, 2011

    Well, then, shall we discuss what ways it might be possible to join with others who disagree theologically with glbt acceptance, if you were to choose to try?

  • pennyjane hanson on June 4, 2011

    i don’t need the sarcasm, donna, if you want to dialogue with me, come on down here with me…but, just yelling up to you has gotten me nothing but a strained neck.

    “were i to choose to.” for all the glory that kind of stuff brings to God, i’ve got a penny…but only for loan.

    have a nice day.

  • Donna on June 4, 2011


    Wow…There was no sarcasm in my message. You wrote earlier that you just couldn’t approach, with love, someone who had opposing views on this subject or who would condemn glbt people in terms of religion.

    We are all capable of approaching someone like this, but we either choose to do it or not. Janet says she chooses to engage and gives her reasons. I generally engage by listening.

    How do you engage?


  • pennyjane hanson on June 4, 2011

    donna, for one who takes such *pride* in herself as a listener, you don’t hear very well.

    i have said repeatedly, in every way i can think of saying it, I DON’T KNOW HOW TO ENGAGE THAT.”

    i hear you say that you do. so i asked you to show me….you spouted off a bunch of scripture to…..silence.

    ok, that didn’t work.

    so, let’s examine any “engagement” you have demonstrated for me.

    that was quick.

    so, ok, i agree with you…you are a perfect christian…well, except maybe for that lack of even an embryonic one cell glimmer of humility, you are perfect in every way, and i am a loser.

    that’s that…thanks for the engagement, and…for real,

    have a nice day. pj

  • Donna on June 5, 2011


    I am engaging you. Can we try something else? Even if you don’t know how, can you think of ways you might engage or what you might want to say to a person who differed with you theologically on glbt inclusion? Have I got it right that you deal with glbt children who have been kicked out of the house by their families? How might you engage one of your kid’s parents?


  • pennyjane hanson on June 5, 2011

    yes, donna, you have it right. i do deal with children who have been kicked out of their homes as a result of revealing their transsexualism.

    i don’t engage their parents (sigh) i don’t know how. meaningful engagement has to have some basis in mutual respect, at least to me, and not only do i not respect those parents, they disgust me.

    my engagement begins and ends with the safety and welfare of the child, replacement engagement, if you will.

    i do not know how to engage people whose exclusionist theology or, more often, personal pride expressed as some makeshift theology derived from frank’s, kind and loving approach, could lead them to take such evil actions. it’s beyond my comprehension…and, frankly, i’m not at all sure i’m the kind of person who even wants to get down in with that filthy mindset and engage it…i’d rather just get aways from it, it scares me, it terrifies me.

    having grown up in post war europe i have seen, maybe too much of, what demonization of a class of people can do, where it can lead.

    in today’s language i will say it this way, “it’s a very short stroll from american evangelist theology to ungandan legislation.” it’s not paranoia, the connection is real and it is documented. the fields of history are littered with the corpes of that paradigm, and those who engaged it with kindness, understanding and love.

    no, i cannot address that theology with respect, understanding and kindness. i hate it with every ounce of christianity in me.

    what i do with these chilren is praise God that those foul and evil excuses for parents turned them out into the street before they ended up like bill’s brother, dying in fear of their salvation because of their (ugh, cough, choke) “lifestyle”.

    engage them? the only engagement i even envision is decidedly old testement.

    engaging others, who might have similar theology to my own? first: i would respect them. i wouldn’t dismiss their honest, sincere feelings as their own “perception” of me as if it just appeared out of a void. after some conversation i would acknowledge my own part of the responsibility for any perception they might have of me.

    i would own that, and show them, say to them, that i have not always acted in a manner bringing glory to God myself. display humility and contriteness…reveal my own imperfection.

    in that i would show them that i am serious about my desire to engage…as equals, not as high and mighty to low and impotent.

    that, to me, might lead to the first steps in some kind of meaningful diagloge. if one, though, is willing in that way and the other isn’t…i don’t see much hope for any meaningful diagloge there either.

    as i said, i am naturally given to forgiveness, i desire it, i cherish it, i love it…at the first hint of contrition i am open to the warm and wonderful feeling IT produces in me. but, i can’t manufacture it. like most good things, it comes by grace, grace that God displays through all…not just me personally.

    strike “most”, insert “all” good things.

    so, having any respect for my perceptions, do we have a chance for meaningful and i?

  • Donna on June 5, 2011


    I think we can. There is not glbt person alive who doesn’t understand the feeling of injustice as you have described. This is going back in time for me, but when I came out, you know from the earlier discussion what happened in my church. In addition, my family turned me out. So I had a lot of anger about that for many years, so much so someone I worked with once said to me: what is that chip on your shoulder, Donna? It affected everything in my life, every relationship, everything even though I buried it.

    The chip is gone because God does work wonders, because He called me back what I call “organized” Christianity, where I learned through hearing the stories of others like me. I learned by looking at the grace of my pastors who faced injustice head-on with love. The wounds began to heal but the anger did not.

    The anger didn’t heal until I was in Arizona. Our church was part of the pride parade there and I was walking with the pastor. At an intersection, there were “the haters” with their signs and megaphones that “God hates Fags” and “Die Fags” and all of that. My pastor stopped, and turned, said a prayer and blessed them with the sign of the cross. Through that small action God moved my heart me to think about my anger, held in since I was 20. Oh my, I wept and asked God to help show me the answer to why and how to get rid of the anger. The result was that I began to remember that I was loved by that church I grew up in, and the pastors, really very much, and saw that their love comes from Christ as much as my and your love does. This experience doesn’t make me perfect. I am the least perfect and least capable of all…it is a way in which God grew me in a way no one else on earth could’ve grown me. I now remember my pastors fondly, their good qualities, and want to be as strong as they were in their faith and love for God.

    Love is the tie that binds us God and to each other. Just the words “I love you” can cause people to change the entire direction of their lives. I think you know this. Your love for those kids is remarkable – what would they do without you? Your love is turning their world around.

    You don’t have to answer, but I’d like to ask you this: are you afraid that if you let go of the anger, you will be less effective in terms of facing the injustice?


  • pennyjane hanson on June 5, 2011

    “i guess not” is my answer.

  • pennyjane hanson on June 5, 2011

    sorry…that was not an answer to your question…i know it’s hard for you to understand, but i don’t really need instruction as to whether “i have to answer” or not answer your question…believe it or not, i can figure that out for myself.

    that was my perception of the question i asked you…the one where i was trying (again) to squeeze just some little piece of humility or contrition out of you.

    my percieved answer is this: “i guess not.” for you can’t get blood out of a turnip.

    you haven’t engaged me, you haven’t even acknowledged what i thought might percipitate an engagement between you and i. you just keep instructing me as a superior, not an equal.

    you keep “listening” but not hearing a word i say.

    have a nice day. pj

  • pennyjane hanson on June 5, 2011

    now…i will answer your question, donna, not because i think you will hear my answer, but…getting the truth out there is sometimes and end in itself.

    no, when i am in the service of what i percieve to be God’s will for me, i do not fear the darkness, for i know He is with me….i am fearless in His service.

    don’t confuse that with courage, the two are not related. left to my own devices i would be horrified to ever even open my mouth.

    “yea, though i walk through the valley of death, i will fear no evil, for thou art with me.”

    when i am in the service of one of those children who have been abandoned by their families and their hateful, bigoted, faith systems…i fear nothing.

    i will get them off the street into a safe place.

    i will see that they are fed and clothed.

    having not ignored those things, i will then seek justice for them. by that i mean getting them into a christian environment where all that hate and bigotry their parents and former faith systems have heaped on them can be effectively countered….that is decidedly NOT a place where frank or bill are at…keep those kids away from those monsters at all cost; but a place where they will learn what incredibly important and loved people they REALLY are.

    i only want to teach them this:

    God is madly, head over heels, giddy in love with you, personally. God is so crazy about you that He died a horrible, painful death on your behalf…not just frank’s behalf, not just bill’s behalf…ON YOUR BEHALF.

    and, anybody who tells you any different is a liar, don’t listen to them…their hate is their own, NOT GOD’S!

    no, donna…in that context, how could i be afraid of anything?

  • pennyjane hanson on June 5, 2011

    no, donna, should i die tomorrow, i will not die in fear. i am but one lowly servant. God’s work will live on until He is finished. my demise, or my being discredited beyond rehabilitation in this world is of no consequence at all. it’s not about me, it’s about those children, HIS children, not mine. when even any memory of my memory is long lost to dust, His work will go on….and i doubt it’ll be any easier in that time. i’m not making history, i’m just addressing the needs of one child at a time.

    much love and hope. pj

  • pennyjane hanson on June 5, 2011

    maybe it is your Call to engage those hateful bigots, my Call is to engage their victims.

    (whew) i am empty and i am finished here.

    much love and hope. pj

  • Janet Edwards on June 5, 2011

    Dear Donna and pj,

    Again you give us a unique chance to listen in to a dialogue between LGBT Christians so that all of us can be inspired and challenged by your thoughts and experience. I know staying in the exchange is difficult–I thank you for myself and all listening in.

    In February I was engaged in a place where others could overhear my side of the conversation in the calling of ministers in presbyteries in the PCUSA that would be voting soon on Amendment 10A. I had a long talk with a minister who was going to vote No and was willing to talk. When the call ended, a minister I deeply respect who was listening commented that she never could have done that–continue in dialogue with such a person.

    We each have our callings, as you both seem to have concluded. The church is a community; there are a variety of gifts of the Spirit.

    On Thursday, I stood with an elder from a conservative church and deeply conservative herself and she wept right there over the outcome of 10A. Are we going to treat her the way in which we have been treated?

    In whatever way is in my power, I am committed to ensuring that we exercise our responsibility as the majority in the church differently from the way the majority of the past 40 years used their power. And that seems to be my calling. But I understand it is not everyone’s.

    There is way more that could be said. Peace, Janet

  • Donna on June 5, 2011

    Well, PJ, you could be right, although I doubt that or perhaps fight such a calling. I am the least perfect, least capable, least knowledgeable of all.

    I’m sorry you find my sharing of experience as instructional, but there is one thing I know: I am a student not a teacher and I thought it would help.

    I’d also like to add something else I’ve learned: to receive respect, you must give it. To be an equal you must believe you are equal, regardless of how other people treat you.

    Commendations to you on your work – it is an admirable service to God and to others.

    Best wishes,


  • Bill on August 7, 2011

    Hello Pj.Are you still here?

  • Janet Edwards on August 8, 2011

    Dear Bill,

    Great to hear from you1

    I hope pj responds.

    I hope you both share your helpful thoughts on posts and comments made already and still to come.

    Peace be with you both, Janet

  • Bill on August 9, 2011

    Hi Janet, I guess Pj isnt going to respond. So I’ll ask you. Do you believe that John 3:16 means “All who believe” with the keyword being “all” will be saved? Pj said that it means “ALL”,everyone,.no matter what. I disagreed saying that “believe” is the important key to salvation. Whats your opinion?


  • Janet Edwards on August 12, 2011

    Dear Bill,

    Thanks so much for asking my opinion on the meaning of John 3:16. I look forward to hearing yours.

    For me, Bill, John 3:16 holds within it one of the consistent tensions in Scripture between “all the world” and “my own group.” You see this in concentrated form in this verse: on the one hand, “God so loved the world,” (all), on the other, “everyone who believes in him may not perish,” (my group of believers).

    The exact same tension continues in the verses that follow. In 3:17, Jesus comes “in order that the world might be saved through him” (all). In 3:18, salvation is narrowed to those who believe, “those who do not believe are condemned already” (not my group).

    In the living out of my faith, I resolve this tension on the side of “all” for two reasons. First, very consistently, God’s action here is on behalf of all. God’s saving love is for all the world. There is no variation in that so I must treat everyone as loved and saved by God.

    Second, our belief in Jesus is not necessarily proved by our words or by anything really including our actions. And since Jesus tells us that he has sheep in folds of which we do not know, I firmly believe that people who never even hear about Jesus of Nazareth can be believers in Christ. I get that John 3:16b says belief in Jesus determines who is saved and who not but judging who believes and who does not is not up to me. My job is to love my neighbor as Jesus says that person is by God.

    I hope that is clear to you and I am very interested in your response to it as well, as I say, in your own understanding of this crucial verse in Scripture.

    Peace, Janet

  • Bill on August 12, 2011

    Hi Janet, There was a time I would have agreed with you. But then the more I thought about it I have come to believe the important word here is “believe”. Some texts use the word “hear my words”. Looking at it that way I think its clear that “believe” or “hear” both mean to “follow”( obey). Why else would Jesus have said “If you love me, obey me”? Then there is the matter that if “all who believe” get salvation. This doesnt make sense. If all I have to do is believe ( but not obey, as best I can) then satan himself would receive salvation. Its clear that Satan knew who Jesus was, so since he “believed” then he( satan) would receive salvation. Right?

  • Janet Edwards on August 14, 2011

    Dear Bill,

    You seem to have delved very deeply into the nuances of believing–thanks for sharing your thoughts on it with us.

    And you seem to have hit the same snag that Paul, James, and theologians of every generation have hit–the connection between faith and action. What does it mean to be justified (saved) by faith (belief) alone? But what about James’ reminder–ask about my faith and I will show you my works.

    For myself, Bill, some of that can come close to arguing about the angels dancing on the head of a pin. I come back to the larger point of John 3:16-18 which places both our faith and our actions within the larger assurance Jesus gives us that God loves the world and He came to save the world. It is God’s action in Jesus that is paramount.

    I wonder what has taken your eyes off that great promise and whether you can refocus it?

    You have got us all thinking about deep things. I look forward to your further comments.

    Peace, Janet

  • Bill on August 15, 2011

    Hello Janet

    1 Timothy 4:1-2

    This is whats happening here today….and it breaks my heart.

  • Janet Edwards on August 16, 2011

    Dear Bill,

    I can hear our heart breaking here and I worry for you. I hope you can turn such concerns over to God’s care and power, Bill.

    I expect it is helpful for people who come here who are not as familiar with the Bible as you are to write out a passage so this is 1 Timothy 4:1-2: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will renounce the faith by paying attention to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared with a hot iron.” This is a terrifying prospect for is all.

    Paul raises the question of who are the faithful and who are those who stray and I am guessing that you, Bill, and I may answer that question differently. But what is most important to me is that this is not at all an important question to Jesus. I rely upon Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares, Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 where good seed and weeds are planted together and Jesus counsels that they be allowed to grow together until the harvest which Jesus equates with God’s final judgment day. Jesus tells us in many different places that God is in charge of this judgment. Our work is to love one another.

    Loving someone who I may judge as being seduced by deceitful spirits means two things to me. First, I am to be careful to open my self to the Holy Spirit as much as I can, working to make sure that I am not the one who is deceived. Second, I work at inviting the person I judge to what I see as truth and persevere in that invitation without ceasing. I trust these disciplines on my part are no surprise to you.

    And I am eager for your response.

    Peace, Janet

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