Share Your Wisdom for My Upcoming Netroots Talk


This summer it will be my great honor to moderate a panel at the progressive bloggers’ conference, Netroots Nation, on the topic of Building Bridges with People of Faith to Win Progressive Change.

As moderator, it will be my role to share insights and advice on how progressive activists can connect with people of faith — and in so doing, advance GBLT inclusion, protection of our environment, and so many of the other progressive causes we care deeply about.

In preparation for the event it is my hope that I might tap into the wisdom and experiences of those of you who have lived at the crossroads of the church and the progressive movement for a long time. Specifically, I would be grateful for your thoughts in response to a few specific questions:

1.What is the single most important tenet of your faith that has shaped your political and social values?

2.Particularly for those of you who are pastors, elders, or church leaders, what advice would you give to progressives who wish to build common ground with congregations like yours? Do you recall any times when a progressive group approached your church to suggest a partnership? What worked and what didn’t?

3.Finally, for those of you who thrive in the online world, what advice would you offer to progressive bloggers about how they can best network with people of faith online?

If you have ideas or thoughts in response to either of these questions, please post them in the Comments section of this page so that we can all brainstorm together. After the workshop, I’ll post an update here at to let you all know how it went.

Thanks for checking out this conference and for supporting me in this moment with your ideas, inspiration and prayers.

Peace be with you all,


11 Responses
  • Sea piner on July 13, 2010

    Tenet….combo of 2. God created human beings in God’s image and it was very good; then love is of God; so love on another as I (God) have loved you.”
    How to approach….listen. Respect. Understand that the “applecart of faith” a person has is NOT easily changed and turning it over is a fear-full and damaging event unless God-driven. Some progresives in the congregation (as well as conservatives) have tried to force others to their position. It causes polarization and rigidity.

  • Janet Edwards on July 14, 2010

    Dear Sea piner,

    Deepest thanks for your wisdom as I approach moderating this panel at Netroots Nation.

    How do we know when the impetus for change in the church is God-driven? I agree with you completely that God-driven change will be filled with listening and respect which arises from our love for one another rooted in God. Both the Bible and church history testify to the many times we fall short in doing this as the people of God.

    But I trust you would agree: God is always driving change. Ours is to grasp it and lovingly bring as many people along with God’s inspiration as we can.

    May the beauty of the earth, the sky and the sea go with you and abide with me, Janet

  • Rev. Madeline Jervis, H.R. on July 14, 2010

    1. TENET… I am a child of God… and so loved by God’s grace, and not by anything I am or do. And if I am… so are you, and all of God’s children.
    2. In the church, I try always to avoid titles, and address everyone by their Baptismal name, as a sign of our equality before God. ( As the Quakers did) This may not be appropriate in those communities in which titles of respect are denied by the wider culture. In a new situation, I use the children’s sermon to introduce myself this way and teach that we are all sisters and brothers, even their parents and teachers, which usually gets a giggle.
    I agree that respect for individuals is crucial… even when we think they are wrong. It is helpful in avoiding arrogance to remember that it is possible that we may be in error in some way.
    (Unlikely, but possible.)

  • Janet Edwards on July 14, 2010

    Dear Madeline Jervis,

    I have learned an immense amount from your passion for the rich meaning of the sacrament of Baptism, Madeline. Thank you for sharing some of it here.

    You remind me, in particular of the powerful consequences of our tradition of baptizing children. I know you are adamant concerning the rights of all church members to serve in the church based upon baptism, period.

    When you return to Sea piner’s commendation of “respect” you both remind me of the Four Virtues of the Oxford Movement, a 20th century church renewal effort. I try to live by them. They are Honesty, Humility, Purity of Motive and Love. God help us to sustain those–then we will, indeed, love our neighbors as Jesus taught us.

    Peace, Janet

  • Alan on July 15, 2010

    Hi Janet,

    Brian pointed me toward this post and suggested I share a few thoughts, since I’ve been reading blogs and blogging since before the blogosphere was formless and empty and darkness covered the face of the deep. 🙂

    1. I would say the the tenet of my faith that has most informed my social and political views is something our former pastor, Chuck Booker-Hirsh, used to remind us of. That is, the way that God has revealed himself in Scripture from “I AM”; to Emmanuel, literally “I (with you) AM”, where “with you” becomes God’s middle name; to “What you do for the least of these you do for me”, where Jesus actually draws an equals sign between himself and humanity.

    2. Northside has had great opportunities to form alliances with progressive groups in the areas of hunger and homelessness (eg. working to secure PCUSA grants for affordable housing projects, working with the local men’s shelter to provide overflow shelter space in our sanctuary in the winter, etc.). Unfortunately we have had little success establishing alliances with LGBT groups in the Ann Arbor area, in spite of being the only MoreLight church in Michigan for many years (Not any more, praise God!) No secular LGBT group has ever asked for our help or participation, and when we approach groups to seek ways to be useful, we get no where. Either we’re greeted with distrust, or the leaders of these groups seem to have no idea how we could be useful.

    3. I mostly travel down the LGBT streets of the progressive blogosphere, and I would say that I have learned that people are people, regardless of political ideology. In my experience, progressive LGBT bloggers are no more inclusive or accepting than conservative bloggers. At best they are distrustful of people of faith (for good reason), but more often than not they are seriously hostile to people of any religion, criticizing us (not just Christians) for the silly and irrational worship of some hateful “Sky God”. Since many LGBT bloggers simply reprint articles from the main-stream media, they end up only repeating the same horrible stories about certain corners of the world of faith, ignoring the positive stories about people trying to make a difference. (Note: I don’t think they’re wrong in highlighting the injustices perpetrated by some of our brothers and sisters, but since they are not print media and not paying by the page, it costs them nothing to seek out and publicize good news once in a while (on their own, since good news is not sexy enough for the main-stream media).

    Frankly, however, I have seen little evidence that many progressive LGBT bloggers have any interest in seeking out stories that would challenge their narrative about us hateful Christians. As Lisa on the Simpson’s once observed, “Everybody needs a nemesis. Sherlock Holmes had his Dr. Moriarty, Mountain Dew has its Mellow Yellow, even Maggie has that baby with the one eyebrow.” More annoying is when they report on some anti-gay Phelps protest, then complain, “Where are the good Christians?” conveniently ignoring the many people of faith who show up to counter-protest. (Not really any different than hearing Fox News commentators ask where the moderate Muslims are any time some fundamentalist blows himself up, conveniently ignoring the dozens of statements from moderate Muslims condemning the action.)

    So, the first peace of advice for progressive LGBT bloggers would be to open their eyes and realize that Christianity (or any other faith) is not monolithic and that hating progressive people of faith simply because of our faith is not helpful, nor does it do anything for our shared progressive causes. As both Brian and I have found, it has actually been much easier to come out as gay in our church than to come out as Christian in the gay community, and that’s true online as well.

    I’m not sure any of that is helpful, nor is it particularly positive, I suppose. But it is realistic, at least based on my experience.

    Good luck at the conference, I think you’re an excellent person to be moderating this discussion!

  • Janet Edwards on July 16, 2010

    Dear Alan and your beloved husband Brian, THANKS for your wise and helpful comments from your long experience!! Your description of what Northside does in the community, as partners with other progressive groups, offers exactly the kind of practical possibilities I want to place before the bloggers at Netroots Nation. What may be rare now does not need to stay that way. We all desire to bring about progressive change. I trust we will cooperate when we see that being together will achieve our common goals. May what is real be transformed to the delight of us all! Thanks again and peace be with you both, Janet

  • Carey D. on July 18, 2010

    You may be interested in this blog:

  • Ann Montague on July 18, 2010
  • Leigh Anne on July 18, 2010

    Maybe not a “central” tenet of my faith, but one that gets a workout, is “All Truth is God’s Truth.” Most central might be that we are all sinners, saved by grace alone.

    The first makes me fear less the opinions of others, and allows me to listen without feeling like I have to answer them with a “yes, but” every time. So I listen better. And learn more.

    And I approach the whole “people of faith” thing by assuming that everyone has a belief or set of beliefs that guide them, whether a set of principles, a certain take on existence, a personal god or gods, or something else.

    I know that “progressive” brings up a whole laundry list of political positions, but I still ask people not to dismiss any of my beliefs with a slogan or a slur, and I try to do them the same courtesy.

    Most of the “progressive” people that I know, know that a lot of their political base is people of faith and, however surprised they may be initially, they welcome these LGBT people and their alies quickly enough.

    But in the blogosphere, hit-and-run sloganeering (and proof-texting) is the norm, with most people just taking swipes at one another in brief comments. So how do “we” progressive people dialogue with “them” people of faith? I don’t see it as easy for anybody involved. So few of us practice the arts of dialogue and debate in our own lives.

    Perhaps, instead of posting so many position papers, and respons es to other position papers, we could discuss what other people believe, with respect and not just to set them up to knock them over. Even taking another’s point of view, making certain (through dialogue) that you understand it, and restating it in your own words — online — can make it clear to others that you are really listening. And listening is a great gift in itself.

    Just as people have a lot of reasons for supporting a position, people of faith — and others — are diverse in their reasons for opposing things.

    Yelling “Get down off your pulpit!” and “Separation of Church and State!” seem to be the norm, though.

  • Ann Montague on July 18, 2010

    The above is a video of Woody Guthrie singing his song, “Jesus Christ”. It says it all

  • Janet Edwards on July 19, 2010

    Dear Carey D., Ann Montague and Leigh Anne,

    These are all very helpful comments and references. Thank you so very much for them. They will inform my words to all I meet at Netroots Nation this week.

    I will carry them with me to Las Vegas as signs of your well wishing that the Saturday panel contributes to the furthering of the progressive change we all desire.

    Peace be with you all, Janet

Comment on this post