Tuesday, August 28, 2007

God? You could at least remember her name

Elvira Arellano captured our attention last week. About a year ago she was taken in Sanctuary by Alberto United Methodist Church in Chicago. Elvira and her eight year-old son, Saul, lived in the church for just over 12 months.

Elvira is an undocumented alien who was working at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport where she cleaned airplanes to support the two of them. Her son is a US citizen. The church supported her in an attempt to prevent her from being deported.

This last week, while traveling between churches in Los Angeles where she was speaking about the plight of undocumented aliens, she was arrested. She was deported to Tijuana the next day.

Our Peregrini centered upon the role of the Church (if any) in providing sanctuary for those who seek it. The conversation covered a wide range of possibilities whereby some might seek sanctuary. While no resolution was derived there was lively debate about the legitimacy of someone who has committed a crime seeking solace under the grace of the church.

The most stunning part of the evening came after the official conversation while we cleaning up. When we started the evening I apologized for not being able to remember this woman’s name. While we were cleaning up Tyler reminded me that her name is Elvira. He told me he had heard lots of conversation about this topic on talk-radio. One commentator couldn’t remember the woman’s name and he remarked, “it doesn’t really matter.” Tyler said it does matter because without a name and face we can forget that we are talking about real people with hurts and pains just like ours. Thanks for reminding me Tyler and I pray not to forget Elvira and her Saul.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

God? Double Dipping

The Rev. Ann Holmes Redding said in a recent Christian Century article titled "Episcopal Priest who embraced islam suspended for a year" that she is both Muslim and Christian. "I'm both an American of African descent and a woman. I'm 100 percent both. At the most basic level, I understand the two religions to be compatible. That's all I need." Redding told her story to the Seattle times in June.

Her Bishop, The Rt. Rev. Geralyn Wolf, suspended her for a year to "reflect on the doctrines of Christian faith and her vocation as a priest." Wolf states that he sees "the conflicts inherent in professing both Christianity and Islam."

Our Peregrini discussion divided the conversation into several parts.

First, no one thought any bishop would take such an action against a lay person. Some of our group doubted that some bishops would even take a similar action against some priests that they suspicion might have similar leaning, or at least embrace another religion like Buddhism.

Second, there was some serious conversation given to the idea that the priest, as an employee of the church and having taken vows of holy orders has an obligation to be one who "proclaims the gospel." However, it was pointed out that it would be hard to find any priest that weren't in violation of such canons. Who would be the keeper of the "orthodoxy?" Would we be heading to more inquistions?

Third, some made the point, "who really cares?" Until religion can get over itself and begin understanding itself as all a part of One Holy God and not holy apostolic and catholic Church, it will be at the root of conflict and even war. Because we may not be able to accommodate The Rev. Redding, we probably are driving others who are eclectic in faith, away from the church as a whole. Just another form of fundamentalism? What do you think?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Theology on Tap:Does God Happen to Everyone?

Theology on Tap - Does God Happen to Everyone?

The Rev. Kate Bradley led our pilgrims in a troubling conversation. Kate is always open and personal. She told us about her childhood experience of being encountered by a very tangible God. It was the beginning of her journey that has led her to be a priest in the Episcopal Church. But, the question was, does everyone have this kind of experience and if not, why not?

Carole offered the story of a 50 year-old friend who has lived a prayerful and disciplined life, hoping and longing for Kate’s kind of spiritual contact with God. Carole’s friend wants to feel that God loves him and knows him personally. Is that too much to ask? Her friend lives in the continued agony of aching for an experience that he has no hope will happen.

The conversation focused on the friend. Maybe he just hasn’t contexted his own experience in such a fashion that he could quantify such an existential moment? Maybe God has offered such an experience and he just hasn’t known it? Or felt it? Maybe it will happen?

We were told that in the book What Ever Happened to the Soul? by Warren Brown and Nancy Murphy that neuroscience suggests that the brain is either wired for spiritual experience or it is not. Spiritual experience, visions, can be provoked by neuro-stimulus. Maybe her friend just isn’t “properly wired.”

In all honestly that viewpoint was heartily argued against. Not necessarily from a scientific perspective but from the point of the limitations of the unseen God.

It was suggested that her friend had every right to beseech God about God’s absence. The Psalms are full of those crying out to God to be fully present to the experience of humanity.

We were told about Sister Theresa who lived her life without any ecstatic experience of God. She simply chose to live a life of daily obedience and service.

Obviously we didn’t come to any conclusions – we just shared lots of ideas and personal stories. Join in the conversation.