This summer I had a conversation with someone at CGS who has a family member that identifies as gender non-binary. We had a great conversation about how confusing all the language around gender and sexual orientation can be. There are so many words that are new to us and people are so much more diverse than we’ve been accustomed to knowing before! We also talked about how hard it is to change our idea of who someone is when they have the revelation of their own identity.
In her book One Lost Coin Reverend Emmy Kegler talks about the parables of the lost coin, the Good Shepherd, and the prodigal son. She talks about these parables and asks us to consider our queer siblings as the lost coin, the wandering sheep, or the prodigal son – lost, forgotten, or alienated by those of us in the church who have not seen these different people for who they authentically are, or known their intrinsic value, or been able to accept their non-normative ways. But she also says:
“The trouble with this metaphor is that God is the shepherd and the woman, and if God was careless with sheep and coin that would mean God was careless with us. Metaphors, in Scripture and elsewhere, do not encompass the whole of reality. God has never been careless with us, but those who claim to speak for God have. We experience God through our experiences of others. We experience God through the Scripture handed down to us over centuries, translated and retranslated, edited and sweated over. We experience God through how others use those same Scriptures, supporting both slavery and abolition, egalitarianism and complementarianism. We experience God through compassionately curated events, from regular Sunday worship to Wednesday-night Bible studies to weekend retreats, and all the experiences of God that our leaders have had, create filters for our own experiences.”
I know it’s hard to learn a whole alphabet of letters that name the different ways people are sexually oriented. I know it’s awkward to begin asking people what their pronouns are instead of assuming that you can know if someone is “he” or “she” or “they” just by looking at them. We do these things because our language and the way that we speak to one another we create filters for the experience of God.
How will trans people know that God loves them if we don’t say so? How will people who identify as bisexual know that they have value in God’s eyes if we won’t even say “bisexual” out loud?
I am extremely excited and proud to say that with the leadership of some of the folks at CGS, we are creating a coalition of faith communities for Pride this year. Together, we won’t promote any one of our congregations over the others, but we’ll amplify the voice that says “You are not lost.”
We don’t have to be at a booth during Pride to do this. We can show people that God values them by showing that we value them – even if their identity is new to us or unfamiliar. Even if we might stumble while we learn, the act of asking, learning, and trying shows others that we (and God) value them just as they are.
CGS is hosting a book club to culminate in a rare opportunity to speak with the author himself.
Lenny Duncan is the unlikeliest of pastors. Formerly incarcerated, he is now a black preacher in the whitest denomination in the United States: the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Shifting demographics and shrinking congregations make all the headlines, but Duncan sees something else at work--drawing a direct line between the church's lack of diversity and the church's lack of vitality. The problems the ELCA faces are theological, not sociological. But so are the answers.
Part manifesto, part confession, and all love letter, Dear Church offers a bold new vision for the future of Duncan's denomination and the broader mainline Christian community of faith. Dear Church rejects the narrative of church decline and calls everyone--leaders and laity alike--to the front lines of the church's renewal through racial equality and justice.
It is time for the church to rise up, dust itself off, and take on forces of this world that act against God: whiteness, misogyny, nationalism, homophobia, and economic injustice. Duncan gives a blueprint for the way forward and urges us to follow in the revolutionary path of Jesus.
We will gather 4 times over the next couple months:
Wednesday, August 21st at 10am
Wednesday, August 28th at 10am
Sunday, September 15th at Noon
Sunday, October 27th at Noon
Each gathering will be driven by the discussion questions included in the book. You can come to one or to all of the gatherings, without any requirements on completed reading.
Then, in November the author will appear at CGS on his national book tour. This event will be advertised throughout Silicon Valley and the greater Bay Area, so it will be essential for you to reserve (free) tickets in advance.
There are copies of the book free to you in the CGS office, compliments of our library fund. Stop by and pick one up if you don't wish to purchase it for yourself. If you have questions or would like to indicate your participation, contact Paul Thomas or Randy Presuhn (info in Breeze).
You might remember this past spring when our council wrote a letter to the bishop and told you about it. The letter was in response to a draft document called "Trustworthy Servants of the People of God" which was an attempt to replace a previous teaching document "Vision and Expectations." Both documents, originally intended to be teaching documents of the guidelines of clergy in our Church, have been poorly constructed and harmfully used to condemn and marginalize LGBTQ+ leaders in our Church.
The response of our council and many others prompted the ELCA Church Council to reject the draft of Trustworthy Servants and ask the Domestic Mission Unit of the ELCA to begin a new process of constructing a better document that is a worthy teaching tool for our future. This process is beginning by gathering the input and consideration of as many people in our Church as possible.
Therefore, you personally have been invited to lend your voice to what would make for a good document that teaches the boundaries and expectations of all our rostered leaders (clergy and deacons). The process that is proposed is:
1. Gathering information via survey from rostered ministers, candidates, lay leaders and seminary partners on what the church needs (August – September 2019).
2. A listening event at the Churchwide Assembly (Aug. 6, 2019).
3. Intentionally reaching out to various communities for input, such as candidates, deacons, gender and sexual minorities, survivors of clergy misconduct, ethnic specific communities, the confessionally conservative, and those from all four convictions identified in the social statement “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust” to encourage participation in the survey and process.
4. Zoom listening sessions with rostered ministers, candidates, lay leaders and seminary partners will be held Sept. 5 at 8 p.m., Sept. 17 at 12 p.m., and Sept. 24 at 12 p.m. (all Central Time).
5. Update to Conference of Bishops (September 2019).
6. Curation of information (October 2019).
7. Summary posted on website when available.
8. Listening group meeting (October 2019) when the next steps will be communicated.
9. Update to Church Council (November 2019).
If you would be willing to lend your voice to the survey, please click here.
If you would be willing to join a Zoom (online video call) listening session, please click here.
Thank you for taking the time to shape the culture and practice of CGS. It's our hope that the radical welcome which has brought abundant joy to CGS might infect the whole of the ELCA.
Openings are now available on SJUSD’s Measure H Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee (CBOC)
Tired of complaining and want to have a real impact? Become a member of San José Unified School District’s Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee. Responsible for reviewing the use of taxpayers’ money for San José Unified school projects, Measure H CBOC volunteers examine how Measure H funds are being used for upgrades at SJUSD school sites. Committee members typically meet only four times per year and must live or work within the boundaries of San José Unified School District. One of Randy's neighbors, Mary Ann Burke <firstname.lastname@example.org>, serves as the committee's chair and would be happy to talk about their work. She says a volunteer would serve on a board appointed for a two year term and attend four two-hour meetings a year, starting at 6 pm at rotating San Jose Unified District schools. Let her know ASAP if interested. Meeting dates for the current school year are August 26, November 25, February 24, and June 1.
For more information on the CBOC as well as a CBOC application, visit go.sjusd.org/measurehcboc <http://go.sjusd.org/measurehcboc> , email email@example.com <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org> or call (408) 535-6444. Apply today.
Personal pronouns are the set of pronouns a person wants others to use when talking to or about them. Ask a person what pronouns they prefer.
Remember: if someone is feminine presenting, it does not automatically mean they use she/her/hers pronouns. You can not assume someone’s pronouns based on the person’s gender expression. Visit RWKS.org/Advocacy to learn more about extending hospitality to LGBTQ people including inclusive language and personal pronouns.
Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression
At the moment someone gives birth, there is a new-born, a doctor, and a question: “Is it a girl or a boy?” The birth certificate has two boxes, and only one can be checked. This is an example of the gender binary system, where there are two, and only two, very distinct options. It is one or the other, male or female. And the way that question is answered has ramifications throughout one’s entire life. Future options, expectations, and opportunities all hinge on which box is checked. And interestingly, notice that the very question—”Is it…?” withholds person-hood until a gender is assigned.
Sex, gender identity, and gender expression can be experienced on a continuum, creating a nearly infinite combination of identities. The binary gender system says that there are only two genders. Here, we can see that gender is truly far more complex than this binary system.
GENDER IDENTITY refers to a person’s innate, deeply felt psychological identification as a man, woman, or another gender, which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned to them at birth. Gender identity is different from the term “gender,” which is typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones.
GENDER EXPRESSION refers to the external characteristics and behaviors that are socially defined as either masculine or feminine, such as dress, grooming, mannerisms, speech patterns and social interactions. These norms vary culturally.
SEX is assigned at birth based on external genitalia, reproductive organs, chromosomes, and hormones. People with ambiguous genitalia or other biological complexities (such as an unusual chromosome pattern or hormonal shifts) may identify as intersex.
SEXUAL ORIENTATION is the term used to describe what gender(s) someone is physically and/or emotionally attracted to. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, queer, and straight are all examples of sexual orientations. A person’s sexual orientation is distinct from a person’s gender identity and expression.
Thanks to ReconcilingWorks for the content and graphics found on this page
By Daniel Thomas, CGS Musician
One of the more interesting philosophical takes I’ve heard in the last few months has come from a children’s animated series (thanks, Joshua!). In this cartoon, a man is planning to the minute the actions and activities of him and everyone around him – even the impending birth of his child. When his wife goes into labor a day earlier than “scheduled,” he panics, and his frenzied journey to the hospital is met with unexpected obstacles the entire way. At one point he breaks down and, his worldview collapsing around him, utters:
“Control is just chaos going your way for a bit.”
Then, as he begins to roll with the unexpected, he makes it to the hospital, just in time to witness the birth of his daughter.
I do crisis management well; I’ve always known that I do some of my best work when I’m up against the deadline, or when the best-laid plans have been thrown into chaos.
In live theater, a stage manager sits in a booth in the back of the house, giving all the cues to the crew for when lighting cues should change, curtains should rise or fall, sound effects should go off, or scenery is to be changed. I love doing stage management because I’m helping to control the production, giving the actors a well-planned, safe, and supportive environment in which to perform – but I also love it because something, somewhere, always goes awry, and it’s the stage manager’s job to fix it. Actors skipped ten lines of dialogue? It’s your job to catch the lighting and sound cues up. Someone forgot a prop? Find a crew member or actor to sneak it onstage. Piece of furniture broke? Tell the crew to use the table from Act Two instead. I get to control the chaos, and if I’ve done my job well, the audience never knows anything was wrong.
The funny thing is, as well as I can live in the chaos, I actually dislike it intensely when the little things, the easy instructions, go wrong.
I write all of this because I sometimes view the worship service as a production: everyone has a part, from the Pastor to the lay leaders to the congregation, and there is a script (the bulletin) with lines and stage directions (stand up, sit down, come to the altar). I feel good when everyone’s said their dialogue, hit their marks, and we’ve shared the word and good news of God without any mishaps.
But that never happens. I play the wrong hymn. Someone forgets to invite the congregation to stand or sit. Prayers are skipped. The microphones are too loud or too quiet or not turned on. And when that happens, I feel like we’ve done a disservice to the worship service. How will a guest or potential new member react when it looks like we don’t know what we’re doing?
Pastor Manda is wonderful at reminding me, and all of us, to embrace the chaos. Acknowledge our failings. A perfectly smooth worship experience is not what brings us closer to God. In fact, we are closer to God when we accept our own humanity, with all of its flaws and foibles. Would I rather worship with a perfectly polished, well-oiled machine of a service, or with a community of people, each giving their best efforts to love, support, and lift each other up, succeeding much of the time, not quite getting there once in a while?
“Control is just chaos going your way for a bit.”
Perhaps if I worry less about trying to control the chaos, the chaos will go my way more often.
Greetings CGS Members,
Last week, we encountered plumbing problems at the parsonage. A break in the main line pipe became evident when the front yard of the house began to flood, and we were notified. After a number of calls to plumbers and a series of quotes, it was determined that ARC Rescue Rooter was our best move. The main line, from the street to the house had disintegrated over the last half century and the whole pipe needed immediate replacement. Thank you to Joe Shackelford, Laura Rinde and Pastor Manda for leaping in to address this issue so quickly, obtaining needed quotes, communicating with the leadership and supporting completion of the repair. The main was replaced and the city inspection successfully completed within the week.
This was not an inexpensive bout of deferred maintenance… nearly $7000 was the cost. Due to the emergent nature of the situation we were not able to obtain prior approval from the membership for this expense beyond the $5000 limit as set by our Constitution. So, please consider this the leadership’s communication that we needed to make the repair and issue the payment for this repair last week.
Then, in order to keep you abreast of what’s happening next in the CGS world of property maintenance… please know that we are not done with pipe repairs needed at the parsonage. We knew that these repairs would eventually need to be done, but hoped that we could hold off for a year. After an inspection of the pipes below the house, we learned that the entire house needs to be re-piped soon. The nearly half-century old pipes under the house are in like condition to the main line that burst in the last couple of weeks. We are in the process of obtaining quotes for this work and again, it will not be an inexpensive process… we are looking at $10-$15,000 to complete this work.
The bad news is, we need to make these repairs. The good news is, we have the reserves that allow us to make this repair and this maintenance work a reality. As we search for quotes and plumbers who can help us, we request that you share with us your referrals and contacts. When we have found a solution to the problem, we will schedule a congregational vote to approve the expenditure.
Thank you for your help and do let us know what questions you may have.
Joe Shackelford, Property Committee Chair & Laurie Gaumer, CGS Treasurer
“As talking together as Christians about tough social issues becomes a learned, ongoing practice, we begin to sense that this activity is an important aspect of what it means to be the Church and to carry on its public ministry and witness.
“At the birth of the Church at Pentecost (see Acts 2), the Holy Spirit enabled diverse people to communicate in ways that moved beyond the usual barriers. The Spirit continues to do so in ways that strengthen and deepen who we are in relation to God and one another. Those who are ‘other’ from us challenge us when we mistake our reason and experience as being the case for all people. With new eyes we begin to see how God is active in the world—in the people, the social issues, ethical challenges, the suffering, and the delights that we discover there. We find that our relationship with God grows stronger, our relationship with people in our congregation grows deeper, and our lives and the life of our congregation are transformed. As these things continue to happen, God works to transform the world around us.
“What we confess as the Church becomes embodied in how we are in relation with one another and how we witness to God’s action in the world. Through the Spirit we participate in Christ’s death and resurrection. The power of the cross emphasizes weakness and vulnerability, rather than dominating, controlling, or ‘being right.’ It is relational, incarnational, and generative of new forms of human connection and community. The conversation of the Christian community involves all the members of the community attempting to discern in every way possible what God is doing in our world, and what God is calling us to do, in congregations and other expressions of the church, as well as in our daily lives. That is why talking together as Christians about tough social issues is so pivotal in what it means to be the Church.”
From the ELCA resource “Talking Together as Christians About Tough Social Issues.”
“335,609 (I Cried to God)”
I cried to God, “Three hundred thirty thousand!
Five thousand more, six hundred more, and nine!”
In just ten years, a truth we can’t imagine:
All died from guns, one loved one at a time!
And then I heard ... “Whom shall I send to grieve them?
Go tell the world: ‘I love them! They are mine!’”
I asked the Lord, “Why is there so much violence?
If you are God, why don’t you stop the pain?
God, won’t you speak? For all around is madness!
Just say the word and make us whole again!”
And then I heard ... “Whom shall I send as prophets?
Speak out my truth! Shout till the killings end!”
I knelt and prayed, and wept for all the fallen;
So many lives, so many dreams now gone.
More than a name—each one was someone’s cousin,
Or someone’s child, or someone counted on.
And then I heard ... “Whom shall I send, who knew them,
To work for peace, to labor till the dawn?”
“Lord, here am I! And here are we, together!
No one alone can end this killing spree.
The powers of death pit one against another,
Yet you are God and you desire peace.
As mourners, prophets, laborers together,
Give us the strength to make the killings cease.”
The title “335,609 (I Cried to God)” is derived from the statistics for gun-related deaths between 2000 and 2010. Biblical references: Exodus 20:13; Isaiah 6:8; Matthew 25:40.
Tune: Jean Sibelius, 1899 (“Be Still, My Soul”) Text: Copyright 2015 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
Email: email@example.com; New hymns: www.carolynshymns.com/ Permission is given for free use of this hymn by churches and by ecumenical groups supporting efforts to end gun violence. Gillette serves as part-time associate pastor of First Presbyterian Union Church in Owego, N.Y
Christ the Good Shepherd
Various editorials, articles, and other items of interest.