Advance Praise for “Courageous Faith: How to Rise and Resist in a Time of Fear”

Courageous_Faith_4_largeYesterday I received word from Pilgrim Press that my second book, Courageous Faith: How to Rise and Resist in a Time of Fearis leaving the printer and ready to ship. Courageous Faith is a book for our times, and a primer on how Christians can faithfully work for justice in a new era.

Like Glorify: Reclaiming the Heart of Progressive Christianity, I believe the book will deepen the conversation about what it means to be a thoughtful and engaged Christian in the 21st century. Courageous Faith goes one step deeper, though, helping Christians to cultivate their own sense of moral courage in order to stand against injustice. Of course, those are just my thoughts. Here’s what others are saying:

Pilgrim Press writes:

For Christians, resistance is written right into our baptismal vows. Following Christ means resisting oppression and evil wherever we might find it. Doing that work requires us to first rise up, face our fears, and cultivate courage that can sustain us for the journey. Weaving together wisdom from sources as diverse as Reformed theology, recovery communities, social justice visionaries, and Twentieth Century history, Heath creates a way forward for those who wish to live lives of faithful, sustained, courageous resistance.

The Rev. Dr. Anna Carter Florence, Peter Marshall Professor of Preaching, Columbia Theological Seminary writes:

CarterFlorence_Anna_webEmily Heath is that rare combination of wisdom, honesty, warmth, integrity, character and courage — in short, everything that she shares here with us, in this bold and brave book.  In a language of faith that is nothing short of breathtaking, and in words that resound with encouragement and tenderness, she shows us how even our most stubborn fears can become a path of discovery, one that leads to the way of courageous faith and resistance.  This is a book I want to give to every one of my students,  my friends, and my own children.  When you need a reason to keep going, and the inspiration to do it, Emily Heath is the person you want walking alongside you.

The Rev. Mihee Kim-Kort, author of Making Paper Cranes: Towards an Asian American Feminist Theology, writes:

cropped-MKK-Headshot-9Emily Heath’s Courageous Faith is exactly that — courageous. A compelling work that weaves incredibly powerful stories from their life, Heath reminds us in a provocative way that resurrection is the core of resistance. “Resurrection is God’s response to a world where injustice reigns so supreme that it would rather kill love and grace incarnate than welcome it. Resurrection is the final word to a culture of death, a refusal to allow goodness and mercy to be buried.” I love this so much, and the rest of the book is a reminder that the work of the resurrection is ongoing, and we, in all our humanity, are welcomed into that work, too. Heath’s book is also deeply faithful, and as I write this during the 500th year of the Reformation, I’m grateful for all the threads between recovery and reform-ery, and the call to do this work simultaneously, within ourselves and outside ourselves, too, in the world. Thank God that we have each other in this work of resistance, and that we have Heath’s work to spur us on to love and good deeds. 

The Rev. Dr. J. Bennett Guess, Executive Director of the ACLU in Ohio, writes:

BG-NCMarriageEquality_350-270There exists an embarrassingly small stack of books that explore both the inward and outward demands of earnest, rugged Christian faith. Most writers always weight one over the other, but not so here. In “Courageous Faith,” integrity’s altar call is equally personal and public, wherein author Emily Heath makes a powerful case for a moral courage bold and expansive enough to change and heal our bruised lives even as we must act bravely to change and heal our broken world.

Order your copy today from Amazon  or from UCC resources and dive into a journey of cultivating the faithful courage this world needs.

Reclaiming Progressive Christianity, Starting with Remembering Our Values

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post that two weeks later is still getting a lot of traffic. The title of the piece is “I Don’t Think I Want to Be a Progressive Christian Anymore“, and it is an accurate depiction of how I was feeling at the time. After a little time, though, I’m realizing I was wrong: I do still want to be a progressive Christian.

But here’s the challenge; in the very recent past the term “progressive Christian” has come to be conflated with “emergent Christian” and “post-evangelical Christian”. And I’m not saying that you can’t be one of those things and also be a progressive Christian. This is a big tent movement, and you can. But I am saying that it’s not right to co-opt a term that has been used for several generations to define a theological movement for your own benefit. And it’s especially not right to do it when you are not familiar with, or not willing to honor, the values that progressive Christianity has been trying to model for the larger church for years.

10245585_250411955164792_8829165948251833523_nMy elders in the progressive Christian movement, some of whom are now dead and cannot speak for themselves, deserve more than to have their legacies misrepresented by those who never knew them. And those of us who came of age in the progressive movement over the last few decades are now being called on to bear witness to the history and values of this tradition, and to help to articulate a vision for the future for the movement.

So, I think I do still want to be a progressive Christian. But I want to say a little about what I understand that term to mean, starting with a few values I’ve learned along the way. Here is what I think the progressive church is called to be:

– Transparent

The progressive church has taught me again and again that Jesus’ was right when he said “the truth shall set you free”. It has also taught me that “sunlight is the best disinfectant”. One of the Christian men I respect most has a habit of telling organizations with which he works that “I will not be your institution’s secret keeper”. They hire him anyway, and they’re better for it.

– Accountable

We don’t just answer to ourselves (or kid ourselves and others by saying “I answer to God”). We need accountability from our peers. Denominations get a bad rap with some, but a healthy denomination is one of the best ways of making sure that a Christian leader will be held accountable to a high standard. It’s when a clergy person or other leader becomes a long ranger that the trouble happens.

– Prophetic

Wayne Gretzky famously said, “I skate to where the puck is going; not to where it has been.” For progressive Christians that means that we have to be future focused, and innovative. For instance, the progressive church started talking about LGBT rights in the early 1970’s. By contrast, some well-known leaders who are now claiming the progressive labels have just come forward as allies in the last several years. That’s not being prophetic. That’s being popular.

– Repentant

We will make mistakes. We will fail people who could have used our voices. But when that happens, we need to be the first to stand up and apologize. As a former Presbyterian pastor, I often saw people who sat in positions of power never speak as allies. In the past few years many have now come out as allies, which is great. But sometimes I just want a little acknowledgement that they regret not having done so earlier. Likewise, I know there are probably many things I am not doing now that I should be. When I realize what they are, I hope I have the character to confess, apologize, and make amends.

– Humble

True humility is not about putting yourself down; it’s about raising others up. And what I valued most about the progressive leaders in the generations before mine was their humility. They admitted there were things they did not know. They listened to those who were marginalized in some way. And they stepped aside and gave up the mic when they didn’t know from firsthand experience what they were talking about. (And they never drew attention to themselves when they did it.)

– Witness-oriented

The other thing I learned from progressive Christian leaders over the past twenty years is that they were never, ever, interested in celebrity. In fact, they were quick to shy away from the lime-light. They didn’t mind teaching, or speaking, but only if it helped others in their Christian journey. Karl Barth kept a picture of John the Baptist above his desk. In that picture John was pointing towards Christ. For Barth it was a reminder that the task of every Christian was not to gain followers for one’s self, but instead to use one’s life in order to witness to, and glorify, Christ.

– Bold

The progressive Christians I have know are bold people. That’s different than being brash or provocative. Instead, being bold is about being willing to risk one’s status or power for what one believes is right. In the 1990’s and early 2000’s I watched people risk their pulpits and ordinations to stand up for people like me. Some of these same people had done the same thing a 35 years before that when they stood up against segregation. They weren’t fearless; they were scared to death. But they did it anyway. They are some of bravest people I have ever met, and few in my generation can hold a candle to them.

– Non-idolatrous

The progressive Christians who taught me were also well-trained Reformed theologians. They lectured constantly about the importance of confronting idols. And they practiced what they preached. They refused to worship anything other than Christ. They would not worship at the altar of money. They refused to collude with empire, as Walter Wink taught us, choosing instead to confront it. They would not profit on the backs of others, particularly those who have been in any way marginalized. They did not seek power or status or comfort. They sought only God’s will for God’s people.

– Hopeful

When Rev. John Robinson sent the Pilgrims, ancestors of today’s progressive Reformed Christians, off across the ocean he said God had “more truth and light yet to break forth out of (God’s) holy Word”. It was a message of hope. And hope is central to the message of progressive Christianity. Every piece of writing, every sermon, every speech must point to the fact that our hope comes not from our own words, but from the one who is constantly working in this world to create all things anew. And living into that hope means that we get to make the choice to either participate in that work joyfully, or get out of the way.

– Community focused

Progressive Christians value the life and stories of the individual, but we also highly value the community. Our interdependence on one another is what makes us stronger, not weaker. And so we need the voices of many, and not just a few. And so, because progressive Christianity is bigger than any one of us, this needs to be a group discussion. What values would you add? I’d love for you to tell us all about them below.

I don’t think I want to be a “Progressive Christian” anymore.

I can’t remember when I started calling myself a “progressive Christian”. I think it was probably in the mid-to-late-90’s or so. I was in my late teens and early 20’s, an openly gay college student in Atlanta, and and a wannabe minister. In a time and place where that was pretty unheard of, the courageous church leaders I knew who stood up for inclusion were my role models. They showed me the corners of the church where I could start to envision a life as an openly gay pastor. Even back then we called it “progressive Christianity”.

I came out in the church before Ellen did on TV. I watched a gay bar in my city get blown up. I saw friends of mine live with the everyday slights and pains of homophobia. And I watched and waited as self-proclaimed allies in positions of power whispered their support quietly, but never risked anything publicly. And my then-denomination didn’t change.

1006084_237267106479277_264921106_nAt the time I was a little frustrated about that. Frustrated enough that I reached my own limit with the lukewarm church, and left both my geographic and denominational homes behind in search of the kind of progressive Christianity that would let me be my whole self. And, in many ways I found it. I found a place where I could be an openly gay pastor with a wife to whom I am legally married.

It was about that time that the momentum shifted on acceptance of LGBT people too. DOMA was overturned. Opinion polls shifted. Churches opened just a little more. And suddenly I saw people I’d known in the past talking publicly about how they were allies. I saw them taking the mic and telling their own stories. And I saw them calling themselves “Progressive Christians”.

And I didn’t want to be a jerk, but I wanted to say, “Um, excuse me…where were you when we needed you about 15 years ago? Because I don’t remember you saying any of this back when we were struggling.”

So, why am I saying this today? Because after making my peace with the fact that not everyone gets onboard with inclusion at the same time, I’m watching from afar something of an intense breakdown happening among self-proclaimed progressive Christians.

First, I’m a little confused, because I thought I was a progressive Christian, and I haven’t seen them around before. But, it’s okay. It’s a big tent; newcomers are always welcome.

But here’s what’s not okay: after failing to speak out for justice for years, and after leaving LGBT people and a minority of courageous allies to do the heavy-lifting by ourselves, you don’t get to come in and claim to be “progressive” and then not have any kind of progressive values whatsoever when it comes to anything beyond saying “gays are okay now”. Because if you have suddenly become a “progressive Christian” in the last few years because it’s “safe” now to support LGBT people, you are not progressive at all. You are the opposite of progressive. You have not transformed culture by seeking Christ’s justice. You have waited for culture to be transformed and then you have joined in.

I’m not just talking about LGBT stuff here, though there is some real learning yet to be done on that. I’m talking about the way racism and sexism are talked about in the church. I’m talking about putting down the mic you have commandeered and giving it to the person of color, woman, or LGBT person who has never had a chance to tell their own story. I’m talking about making space for some conversation when a woman comes forward and says she has been abused before shutting it down out of your own fears. I’m talking about transparency, and authenticity, the values that the progressive Christian movement has always valued most.

I’ve been watching the discussions online about WX15, “Why Tony?”, and the rest. I don’t know what the truth is about what happened in a marriage I was not a part of. I’m not even going to touch that here. But, I do know that the discussions about it online, and on all sides, have in no way been steeped in the values of the progressive Christianity that I have known for the past twenty years. The progressive Christians I know, many of whom sacrificed career stability, financial gain, and more for their then-unpopular stance, were courageous. They were justice-focused. And they were willing to admit when they might be wrong, and when another voice might need the space to be heard.

Full disclosure: friends of mine are speaking at this event and they are amazing people whose voices need to be heard. The focus should be on them. But this whole conversation has been derailed. Instead, I’ve seen women be told by “progressive Christian” men in the last day that they are “bitching” about abuse. I’ve seen multiple “progressive Christians” shrug off a serious conversation about domestic violence and what it means in terms of the church. I’ve seen people once again grabbing the mic away from people who need a space to speak their truth. I’ve seen a lack of transparency, and an abundance of legacy-protecting. I’ve seen community covenants get broken. And I’ve seen the discussion around what could be an amazing conference that lifts up the voices of women get hijacked and refocused on a man..

Like I said, I don’t know what the truth is here, and I’m not sure I ever will. I also think that all sides of this have dropped the ball multiple times. But I do know the way the conversation is going now has little in common with the values of progressive Christianity. (At least, the progressive Christianity I thought I knew.)

I’m not mad…I’m just not surprised. After all, I’ve been wondering “Where were these folks back when I was a 19 year old would-be seminarian who needed an ally” for years now. Why should their behavior (and I’m talking about people expressing opinions on every side here) be any different now that we’ve moved on to the next justice issue?

I don’t know what the answer is here, but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be affiliated with what progressive Christianity seems to have become: just a code-word for “same old church, now with more gays!” Because the progressive Christian LGBT inclusion movement in the church was never just about LGBT people. It was about changing the church for the better for ALL people. And, even though my life might be easier now, we are far than done with our work.

So, “progressive Christians”? Keep the title. Just know that it doesn’t mean what it used to mean. And if it adds something to the portfolios of those seeking celebrity Christian status, so be it. It’s a new day out there, and the new progressive Christianity sells (so long as you’re careful not to ruffle too many feathers with hard truths).

As for me, watching all of this unfold has reminded me that our ultimate faith must be in Christ, and not in human beings, no matter how compellingly they speak or write. And so, I’m putting my hope for the church in the hands of the only person who has never let me, or any of us, down yet.

The “Next Big Thing” for the Progressive Church: Putting the Horse Before the Cart

“So, now that we have LGBT equality in the progressive mainline church, what are we going to do now? What’s the next big thing?”

I get asked that question from time to time. The tide seems to have turned in many ways when it comes to the inclusion of LGBT people in the church and in our country as a whole. Doors to ordination are opening, marriages are being blessed, and the church is growing more comfortable with talking openly about sexuality and gender. And so, the question is already being asked by some: What shall we work on next? What big issue does the church need to face?

I have a few thoughts. First, I don’t think the church is anywhere near coming to the end of discussions about full inclusion for LGBT people. Yes, we are far better off than we were ten years ago, and even further from where we were before that, but we aren’t close to being completely inclusive yet. (By the way, we’re not quite done with debates over the role of women or confronting our complicity in racism, either.)

Calling of the Disciples, by He Qi

Calling of the Disciples, by He Qi

But, for purposes of discussion, let’s just say it is time for the mainline church to start looking for the “next big thing” that will unite us in purpose and divide us in debate. What will it be?

I have some ideas. Caring for the environment is on the top of the list. Responding to immigration and other humanitarian crises is too. So is interfaith understanding. And I don’t think it will be too long until the church seriously begins to discuss economic inequalities. There are a lot of possibilities.

I was thinking about that last week. I was sitting in a discussion talking about my views on why it’s important for progressive ministers to be able to talk about our faith, and about what Christ means to us. I was talking about discipleship, and why it matters for our often progressive church. And I was talking about how we’ve lost so much of our theological heritage, and language of faith. And then the question came, part-curious, part-suspect:

“But what about social justice? Does that not matter to you?”

Like I said, the person who asked didn’t know me. They didn’t know that for the past twenty years I have been openly gay. They didn’t know about the times anonymous anti-gay hate letters showed up in my church’s mailbox during my last call, or about how I’d grown up in a place where being gay could literally get you blown up, or about how Heidi and I had needed to file separate federal tax returns even after we got married.

And they didn’t know about the times my faith had compelled me to take action. They didn’t know about how we had stood in the New York State Capitol for the better part of a week as right-wing Christians protesting against equal marriage had yelled at us that we were going to hell. I’ve gone a few rounds in the social justice arena.

But the person who questioned that? They aren’t alone. So many times when I talk about why the church needs to reclaim discipleship, starting with asking ourselves “who do I believe that Jesus is to me” even my progressive Christian friends look at me sideways. Those of us who see ourselves as progressive evangelicals often find ourselves being told that we are too dogmatic, too conservative, or too focused on what doesn’t matter.

Except, I think it does matter. I think it matters more than we know.

I often worry that the progressive church has begun to define itself not by our affirmations, but by our repudiations. When compared with our more conservative brothers and sisters we are so quick to say “we aren’t like that”. We proclaim “not all Christians believe that way” with ease. But when it comes to talking about what we DO believe, we often find we lack the words.

I am sometimes worried that we in the progressive church put the cart before the horse when it comes to social justice. It’s not that I believe we are advocating for the wrong things; it’s that I believe we sometimes advocate for the wrong reasons, acting first and then wedging theological meaning in later.

I am glad that churches stand up against anti-gay measures. I wish more would. But I want us to talk about why our Christian convictions are compelling us to do so.

I give thanks for every church member that stands and protests against the death penalty, but I want us to be able to talk about what the crucified Christ taught us about the value of human life.

I respect every minister who holds a placard in front of the White House and speaks about climate change, but I wish I heard more about how God created the world and called it good, and why that’s why we can’t be silent.

When I walk into a voting booth, I take my faith with me. When I cast my votes, I do so in accordance with what the Gospel has taught me. I cannot separate the two. And I give thanks for that.

But before I got to this place, I first had to become a disciple. I had to read the Gospel for myself. I had to want to follow the Christ they talked about. And only then could I go about the work of living my faith in the public arena, both in the larger church and in the world.

And so when people ask me what the “next big thing” in the church will be, I tell them this: discipleship.

There are a lot of reasons why the church doesn’t wield the influence we once had in the public sphere, but I think the main one is this: we have forgotten our foundation. We have forgotten what it means to be disciples. And people can see through us.

Few people are interested in joining just another public advocacy group. And those who are can find far more effective ones. The progressive church is not the Democratic Party at Prayer, to borrow a phrase. And if we continue to lose our theological literacy, and our ability to talk about our faith, that’s all we will end up being. Without a bedrock of belief, the whole enterprise of church-based social justice will crumble.

But that doesn’t have to happen.

It’s time for progressive Christians to claim discipleship. It’s time to get radical, not about our politics or our policies, but about our faith. It’s time to stop throwing the baby Jesus out with the bath water, and start putting the horse before the cart. It’s time to remember what, and who, we worship. It’s time to develop the language of faith. And it’s time to see our social justice work as a natural product of our discipleship, not something that competes with it for the church’s time.

And only then, when we have gone back to the source and found what ultimately binds us together with God and with one another, can we go out and find the next, next big thing. And whenever that happens, we will be better for it. And we just may find that when it comes to changing the world for the better, the Gospel of Why We Are Different Than Other Christians can’t hold a candle to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Clocks, Dinosaurs, and Other Inconvenient Realties: A Sermon on Creation for September 14, 2014

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable to you, O God, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.

Remember how last week I talked about how a shorter sermon is sometimes called a homily? Well, I don’t know the a name for a longer Scripture reading, but whatever it is, our reading for today would probably qualify, right?

We just heard the whole of the first chapter of Genesis, one of the stories of Creation found in the Bible. It’s probably one you know well. On the first day God created this, and on the second day this, and on the third day this, and so on and so on all the way until the seventh day, when God rested. And at the end of each day Scripture tells us this: “and it was good.”

IMG_3611

Chalk drawings of the Creation story by the Middle School Youth of The Congregational Church in Exeter.

If you’ve ever tried to read the Bible cover to cover, maybe with a few starts and stops, you’ve probably read this passage so many times that it’s almost second nature. Six days of work. One day of rest. And God making everything from the stars to the fish, from the seas to the sun, from animals to us.

It’s why we divide our week into seven days, one of which is, in theory anyway, a day of rest. It’s why we look at our world and see God’s hand in everything we see. And it’s why we, and the other faiths which share this story with us, believe that taking care of God’s creation matters. This story informs so much of what we believe, and what we do.

Which is also why it’s so challenging to those of us who want to take the Bible seriously, but also sometimes have trouble taking it literally.

A few years ago a friend of mine sent a box of books to a family member who had just had a new baby. She was surprised when she received a call from her relative stating that she just could not give her children one of the books because it was inappropriate, and that she hoped my friend would never send her children anything like that again.

My friend is a very conscientious person and couldn’t figure out what was possibly objectionable about these books for small children until her relative said, “You know we are Christians…and you sent a book about dinosaurs. The world was created in six days. There is no such thing as evolution, and there was never such a thing as dinosaurs.”

It’s tempting to dismiss this or laugh it off, but these were well-educated people who sincerely believed that their Christian faith told them the earth was only about 6,000 years old, that dinosaurs never existed, and that the world was formed in six, 24 hour, days. And they believed that if they believed any differently, they were not Christians. And, they are not alone. There are many others who feel the same way.

The only problem with that is this: We know it’s not true. Scientists estimate the earth is about 4.65 billion years old. We know that dinosaurs once roamed it. We know that over the billions of years that came before now there has been profound change, even among human beings.

And so for those of us who are people of faith, but who also take science seriously, where are we left? One of my favorite places growing up was the local science museum, and you can’t tell me that my faith tells me to disavow everything I learned there.

And yet there are many who believe that Christianity requires that. And the scariest part is that it’s not just people in the church, but people outside of it as well. That’s what some people think you and I believe.

Because of that I’m sometimes asked by my atheist and agnostic friends, “how can you believe that stuff”?

I ask them, “What stuff?”

And they tell me, “Stuff like the world being created in six, 24-hour days.”

When I tell them I don’t believe that either, they seem surprised. And then think I’m hiding that from my church and then they get worried that if you find out I might get fired. And that’s when I tell them, “you know a lot of Christians don’t believe the world was created that way either. You just never hear about us on the news.”

And that’s because we who are people of faith, can also be people of science. And, more importantly, we can be people of nuance.

A friend of mine is a geologist. She studied rocks and rock formations all through college and then went out and worked in the field. And taking a walk outside with her is like walking through a living museum. Every rock she picks up suddenly tells a story about what happened hundreds and thousands and millions and billions of years ago. It’s fascinating.

And it was while I was walking with her recently that something hit me. I’ve always known that the Biblical account of creation was to be taken seriously, but not literally. That wasn’t new. But for the first time I really comprehended how important it was to acknowledge just how long creation has been unfolding, and not just for scientific reasons, but for faith reasons. Billions of years. And each of those billions of years does not detract from the idea of God as Creator. Instead, each of those years tells us even more about God’s work, and just how long God has been doing this whole Creation thing.

To deny just how long God has been at work is to deny the glory of God, and is to fail to understand the whole of God’s story.

I believe that in the beginning God created the earth, as well as so much more. And so I think the story in Genesis is true in the big T sense of the word “truth”. But I don’t think the Bible is a science textbook. I think it’s a story that speaks in the language of faith. And I think that faith and science can speak to one another, and only strengthen the other.

And here’s the other piece. I don’t believe that God is done creating. To say God finished the work long ago is to deny that God is still active in our world. There have been some over the centuries who have believed in God, but who also believed God was like a divine watchmaker who put us together, wound us up, and walked away, leaving us to our own devices. You may have heard them called Deists in history class.

But I don’t believe God ever walked away. I believe God is still active in creation, and God is transforming creation, including us, all the time. That’s one reason we take our Eco-Covenant seriously in this church. We believe God made this world, and we believe God still has more to do, and so we need to be good stewards of all we have been given. We need to work with the Creator.

And that’s why, despite the fact they can go home and read science books, we still tell this story to our children and youth.

We are starting something new this year where every time the children and middle school youth start a new unit, about every six weeks or so, the story is going to be told in worship, and I’m also going to preach on it. The idea is that all generations will be able to reflect on the same passage. Today is the first day we are trying this. And so, the kids just came up front and heard the story told by Lisa. And right now they are downstairs learning more. And the middle school kids are out front with chalk, drawing their understandings of Creation too.

And when they leave here today, I hope they go home and play with dinosaurs. I hope they pick up science books. I hope they go to museums. I hope they use the minds that God created in them and learn all they can about this world.

And then, I hope they remember what they were taught here. And I hope that they have adults in their lives that help them to integrate the two. And that they see what they learn outside of church not as a barrier to faith, but as an affirmation of it, and as a sign of God’s work in the world. And I hope they learn to love this world because it is a gift from God, and that they want to care for it.

If those things happen, we will have done a good job sharing this story with the next generation. But this is a story for all ages. And this is your story too. And so, how does it change your faith? Does it challenge it? Or does it make it stronger? I hope it’s the latter. I believe it can be the latter. But I believe it requires those of us who are adults to do the same things that we are asking of our youth. It requires us to bring all of us to our faith. Not just our hearts and our hands, but also our heads. And it means that when we come into the church, we refuse to check our brains at the door.

At the end of each day in the creation story, Scripture tells us “and it was good.” God created us good. God created us, in the words of the Psalms, “just a little lower than God and crowned with glory and honor”. God created every part of us, including our minds, and to not use everything God gives us is not an act of faith. It is an act of disrespect for our awesome creator.

Your minds are always welcome in this church. Your questions are always honored. Your struggles to find God’s truth are always honored. And your quest to read the Bible, this document not of scientific facts or historical timelines, but of God’s love, with your heart and soul and mind, will always be respected. To do anything less, would be to disrespect the God who created us good all those years ago, and who, generation after generation, creates us still. Amen.