Here is Water: A Call for Open Baptism

Inwardly Digest

In one of my favorite scenes from the movie “O Brother Where Art Thou?,” three escaped convicts: Ulysses, Pete and Delmar, encounter a church congregation gathering at a river to perform baptisms. Delmar becomes so excited he jumps to the front of the line to have the preacher baptize him too. After Delmar comes up from the water he yells back to his friends on the shore:

Delmar:          Well that’s it, boys. I’ve been redeemed. The     preacher’s done warshed away all my sins and transgressions. It’s the straight and narrow from here on out, and heaven everlasting’s my reward.

Ulysses:          Delmar, what are you talking about? We’ve got bigger fish to fry.

Delmar:          The preacher says all my sins been warshed away, including that Piggly Wiggly I knocked over in Yazoo.

Ulysses:          I thought you said you was innocent of those charges!

Delmar

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Russia will vote on jail time for LGBT affection in public

76 CRIMES

Walking hand-in-hand through Moscow turned into a frightening experience. (Photo courtesy of ChebuRussiaTV0 Walking hand-in-hand through Moscow turned into a frightening experience. Click on the image to see the 3:30-minute video with English subtitles. (Photo courtesy of ChebuRussiaTV)

Human Rights Watch researcher Tanya Cooper writes:

Dispatches: Jail Time for Being Gay in Russia

Russia is again making media headlines for all the wrong reasons. On January 19, parliament will hold the first reading of another abusive homophobic law, which proposes jailing people for public displays of non-heterosexual orientation or gender identity.

The bill was first introduced in October 2015 by two Communist Party members, Ivan Nikitchuk and Nikolai Arefyev. It proposes fines of between four and five thousand rubles (US$53-$66) for “the public expression of non-traditional sexual relations, manifested in a public demonstration of personal perverted sexual preferences in public places.” If such public displays occur “on territories and in institutions, providing educational, cultural or youth services,” the offender could face an…

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Report from the Presiding Bishop

Redeemer Youth

You may have seen that the Episcopal Church made the news this week.  The heads of each of the member churches in the Anglican Communion, called Primates, met in London.  At that meeting, they decided that they did not want any representative of our denomination to serve on any commission or group in the Anglican Communion for three years.  This is the result of our church deciding to accept the ordination of LGBT people, to bless the marriage of LGBT people and to accept women in leadership roles in our church.

That decision has virtually no effect at our level, as a congregation of The Episcopal Church.  At the same time, it is painful and confusing.  Our Presiding Bishop, The Most Reverend Michael Curry, is the Primate of our church and had this message to us all.

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Living Water

The Daily Cup

In the gospel reading assigned for today, from John (John 7:37-52), Jesus cries out: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink.”

The world we live in, our consumer-driven culture, screams this at us all of the time.  “Want to lose weight?  Get this miracle diet (come to me)!….Want to look younger?  Buy this anti-aging cream (come to me)!…Want people to envy you?  Come and drive this sports car (come to me)!  And on and on and on.  All are temporary fixes that may make us feel better about ourselves, might let us drive faster, or even be envied by our neighbors…all of which leave our soul as parched as the desert.

The water that Jesus offers us is water for our soul.  And out of our believing hearts “flow rivers of living water,” that we believers have welling…

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Stronger voices for LGBT rights in Malawi

76 CRIMES

By Jack Flanagan

Malawi President Peter Mutharika (Photo courtesy of WIkimedia Commons) Malawi President Peter Mutharika (Photo courtesy of WIkimedia Commons)

The news coming from Malawi may suggest a gradual shift in political opinion about LGBT rights.

Recently, Malawian President Peter Mutharika announced through his press secretary Gerald Viola that he “wants gay rights protected,” in an interview on a local radio station.

In an interview with BuzzFeed, Viola reiterated Mutharika’s message of increasing tolerance for LGBT people, saying, “These people are human beings” and expressing concern about reports that gay Malawians were being “beaten and locked up.”

He said, the question about repealing the colonial era law regarding homosexuality should now be put to the Malawian people. That law punishes same-sex relations with up to 14 years in prison.  In 2012, President Joyce Banda called for parliament to remove the sodomy law, but after a few months dropped the issue and oversaw the imposition of a moratorium…

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Hillary Clinton’s Statement on Iran

Still4Hill

2016_campaign_pic

Hillary Clinton Statement on Iran

Hillary Clinton released the following statement Saturday on the release of American prisoners from Iran and on the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal:

“I am greatly relieved by the safe return of American prisoners from Iran. Their families and our country have waited and prayed for this day to come.

“I also welcome the full implementation of the nuclear agreement, an important achievement of diplomacy backed by pressure. Implementation marks an important step forward in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Iran has dismantled centrifuges, disabled a reactor, and shipped out almost all of its enriched uranium. These are important steps that make the United States, our allies, and the entire world safer. I congratulate President Obama and his team, and I’m proud of the role I played to get this process started.

“But we shouldn’t thank Iran for the prisoners or…

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What happened at the Primates Meeting?

Mike Angell

What is the Primates Meeting?

The “Primates Meeting” is a gathering of the most senior bishop by rank of each of the autonomous churches in the Anglican Communion. (Primus is latin for “first.”) Titles and jobs for senior bishops are not uniform in the Anglican churches. Many of the most senior bishops are called “Archbishops” like the Archbishop of Canterbury, but not all Archbishops are primates. (Some churches have more than one archbishop, only the highest ranking bishop is a primate). Some primates are called “Presiding Bishop” and the Primate of the Episcopal Church of Scotland is called simply “Primus.” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is representing The Episcopal Church at the meeting. He is the primate, or highest ranked, bishop in our church. The chair of the meeting is the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is regarded as first among equals.

The gatherings began in 1978 at the invitation…

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Behold, Your Son: Loss, Love, and Family

A Desert Father

It’s strange how the religious imagination works.  In August, we adopted two boys who have, as young boys are wont to do, become the center of our lives.  Very quickly, their schedule becomes yours and you suddenly find that each conversation, where once you might have talked about work or the weather, becomes about the intricacies of one boy’s behavior or the other’s rapidly expanding vocabulary.

Since the day we heard that this adoption might be a possibility – indeed almost from the first moment – I have had a verse from Scripture echoing around in my head.  Off and on again – at rather random moments – I hear John 19:26-27.  “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ’Behold, your mother!’  And from that hour the disciple took her to…

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President Obama’s Tenure Has Been More “Christian” Than His Critics Will Ever Admit

john pavlovitz

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This week President Obama gave a passionate, vulnerable, teary eyed press conference to announce new guidelines for gun ownership. It provided some of the rawest, most authentic expressions of compassion and grief ever shared by a sitting American President.

It was also another example of a man’s religion speaking loudly without needing to be referenced at all.

You see, faith isn’t real faith until it’s walked out and most people know this. Without a life attached to it all theology is just theory. It’s so often (for both politicians and pew sitters alike) merely flowery language and religious window dressing designed for maximum curb appeal from a distance. But unless and until it shows up in the every day of a person—well it’s worth little more than zero.

Even before Barack Obama took office the attacks on his spiritual beliefs by his detractors were fierce and incessant, calling him a closeted Muslim whose religious convictions were more about the demise…

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Giving and receiving light on Epiphany: what can we learn from a band of pagan foreigners in a Jewish story?

Ben Irwin

We three(ish) kingsWe three(ish) kings

At first glance, it seems odd that Matthew is the only gospel to record the events we commemorate on Epiphany: an unknown number of foreign visitors (no, there aren’t necessarily just three of them, they aren’t just “wise men,” and they’re almost certainly not “kings”) arrive to herald a toddler in Bethlehem.

It’s odd because Matthew’s gospel is the most distinctively Jewish of the four. It presents Jesus’ story through a more nationalistic lens than the others. Matthew’s Messiah is sent, it would seem, “only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

Matthew is steeped in Jewish tradition. Even its arrangement—consisting of five main sections or “books,” each building up to a major sermon or discourse from Jesus—mimics the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible.

Matthew takes pains to connect Jesus to the Jewish story, quoting regularly from the Hebrew prophets. The author bristles at the…

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