19 June 2007

Gearing up for Pride

By the way, if you're looking for me this weekend, chances are you'll find me at our church's booth at the Atlanta Pride Festival. Pride is always a big fun time, and this year should be no different (and when did Debbie Gibson start calling herself "Deborah"?).

Doubtless there are several churches that would question our presence at such an event - after all, doesn't the Bible consider homosexuality to be "incompatible with Christian teaching", as the Methodists say? Well, yes and no - and if you're incapable of saying "well, yes and no" about the Bible, then anything else I have to say is probably going to be irrelevant.

If, however, you're still reading, I'll spare you the painstakingly detailed analyses of various passages of Christian Scripture. Suffice it to say that anything in the Hebrew Scriptures (the "Old Testament", for Christians") is either part of the old Levitical law, and thus no more applicable than the prohibitions against eating shellfish, or is part of a really bizarre mythological story that has nothing to do with gays and lesbians. When it comes to the New Testament, the translations of the Pauline letters that have come down to us over time are wildly inaccurate and/or speculative. Let's face it, there wasn't even a Greek word for "homosexual" back then, so how could Paul have possibly been condemning them? Better readings of the Greek words show that Paul was talking about other things.

And on a broader scope, what if Paul did say that anyway? Paul also endorsed slaves remaining as slaves, and women being subservient to men. Do we have any qualms about disagreeing with those assertions today? Well, some Christo-fascists do, but not many reasonable people. The point is, we (as humanity) grow in our wisdom and understanding over time. Is it possible that we know more about science and genetics than the Apostle Paul? Is it possible that the sun doesn't really revolve around the Earth?

So I'll be at Pride, proclaiming a message of radical love and radical inclusion, and if I can find a t-shirt that says "Don't assume I'm straight" I might just have to buy it - unless it's one of those athletic-cut muscle shirts, in which case I'll find something looser fitting and thus better suited for my non-boy-toy physique.

Other random notes

Among my other accomplishments at Annual Conference this year, I managed to get Rex to go to not one, but two vegetarian restaurants, as well as a Japanese restaurant. I wasn't with him the night he went out for wings, however, so no fault of mine there.

Be sure to check out my good friend Keith's new blog, Philosophy and Hoops - you can find a link on the left side of this page.

Finally, feel free to render feedback about the new template/style. I keep messing with things in hopes of being more inspiring - perhaps better content would be more to the point?

16 June 2007

The last day

First, you’ll be glad to know that the clergy finally finished up their voting, so Rex will indeed be in church on Sunday. They appear to have elected a somewhat more diverse delegation than we laity did (no big surprise there).

We adopted the $25 million budget on Friday with one amendment, adding back in about $600,000 that had previously been taken out of the Church Development item. That’s the fund that helps pay for new churches, mostly out in the suburbs and exurbs. The rationale for this funding is that the growing suburban areas need more churches to serve the growing populations. I suppose that’s all well and good, but I would prefer to see a bit more money spent on the intown churches that have suffered declines over the past few decades due to the changing demographics, but are now starting to rebound because of the influx of gentrification (e.g., Druid Hills UMC). I’m a little tired of sending our money out to the exurbs and not seeing much funding flow back to us in return. As you might guess, I voted against the amendment.

We also passed a motion from the floor to form a task force to study the delegate election procedures. The proponents of the resolution complained about the overt campaigning, particularly the aggressive tactics of the “Vision Team”. Naturally, the conservatives opposed this measure, but surprisingly it passed with a comfortable majority. I suppose that’s a hopeful sign for future conferences. At least now there will be a committee in place to which I can submit my ten-page election analysis and recommendations for future procedural changes. The paper is still in the formative stages – i.e., in my head – but I will put together something, because I really do believe that the current process allows an organized majority to control nearly all of the delegate slots, while effectively shutting out any reasonable representation from a minority bloc.

More comments will follow after further reflection (and rest!). Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to feed the blogger with comments!

14 June 2007

The good, the bad, and…

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. The laity election has concluded, and all but one of the conservative “Vision Team” managed to get elected (I have to imagine the one guy who didn’t make it feels pretty bad). After the 12th ballot I asked my supporters to direct their support elsewhere, in an effort to focus the votes on one or two particular progressive candidates that I thought might have a shot at getting at least an alternate delegate slot (this wasn’t an original idea of mine, in case you’re wondering). Unfortunately, that didn’t help matters quite enough, although it was kind of encouraging to still receive 30+ votes even after I asked my voters to go elsewhere. Either that, or the people voting for me were just hard of hearing…

The clergy delegation continues to struggle with their choices, although they at least have moved on to the Jurisdictional votes. I can’t really comment on the makeup of their delegation, because I don’t know enough of the clergy who are on it so far. I’ll check in with Rex and have him give me some feedback – or maybe he should just make a guest appearance on my blog?

This morning’s opening music was big fun, though – Latin/Hispanic songs, done all the way through in Spanish, and then repeated in English. They were very up-tempo, with good work on the congas. I skipped out on the laity service – the speaker was some assistant athletic director at UGA, and I figured there would be one too many metaphors comparing the Kingdom of God and spiritual battles to gridiron contests. The “praise band” music that I did hear was not exactly overwhelming. There’s only so many ways you can make a couple of guitars, keyboard and drum kit play verse chorus, verse chorus, bridge, repeat chorus to BIG FINISH!

Good news – the day began (for some of us) at the annual MFSA (Methodist Federation for Social Action) breakfast. As I noted yesterday, this year’s speaker was Katy Hinman of Georgia Interfaith Power & Light. It was good to hear her, and to be with a group of folks who didn’t need convincing about prioritizing environmental stewardship.

Other good news – after much debate, attempts at unfriendly amendments, and opposing speeches, we still managed to pass a good resolution on comprehensive immigration reform, calling for a path to citizenship, protection for workers, and the reuniting of families, along with reasonable security measures. I tend to think the opponents of that resolution actually shot themselves in the foot, as the opposing speakers came off sounding stubbornly nativist. The vote was 703 in favor to 372 opposed.

One other thing I’ve been struck by this week is the number of good women clergy who seem to be leaving the ordained ministry. One that I already knew about has shifted to the UCC, and two others are leaving associate church positions this year to spend time discerning where their call should lead them. I think it’s incredibly unfortunate, to say nothing of shortsighted, that these clergywomen are not receiving more support and encouragement from the denomination, and that conditions are such that they’re leaving in increasing numbers.

Well, that’s all for now from Athens. We’ll vote on the budget tomorrow, and watch the clergy continue to vote for their delegation – it’s entirely possible that I’ll get out of here way before Rex does, so be nice to him when you see him on Sunday.

13 June 2007

Frodo has failed (mostly)

After several additional ballots today, the laity elected their 14-member delegation to General Conference. Only one of the 14 was not on the so-called “Vision Team”, the innocuously named group of hard-line conservatives. This process took ten ballots in total. On the first ballot for Jurisdictional Conference, however, the laity elected all 14 delegates at once! Remarkable? Yes, somewhat. However, we were choosing from a much smaller overall pool of candidates. And just to cut through any potential suspense, no, I was not chosen for either delegation. The conservatives filled 9 of the 14 Jurisdictional delegate slots as well.

For inclusivity reporting purposes, the GC delegation has two African-American women, three white women, and nine white men. Why does this not look to me like the average church attendance? The JC delegation is a little better, with two AA women, two AA men, five white women, four white men, and one Korean man. The very last person elected is a woman about whom I feel very good as a representative, but she is woefully outnumbered.

Ironically enough, the Conference passed a resolution tonight calling on General Conference to consider, in their elections and appointments, “members with differing Christian theological perspectives and to perfecting the representation of gender and racial and ethnic groups, taking into account membership elected by the jurisdictions and general conference.”

As for the clergy side, they managed to elect a few more folks to GC, but they have a long way to go. We laity still have to elect five additional reserve delegates, and there’s a chance we can get another progressive or moderate person in that contingent; however, there are exactly five members of the “Vision Team” remaining, so it’s possible that their supporters might simply bloc vote all of them in.

Is there anything good going on in Athens? Well, yes. Today was our Great Day of Service, although that was cut short by the need to return for voting and business sessions. I spent a few hours out at Roots, a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm featuring locally grown, organic, sustainable-farmed produce raised in a co-op structure. Although we didn’t have time to do much work, we did learn a bit about the operations of the farm, and as a lot of the volunteers there were young adults, I think they gained some insights into the nature of our agricultural practices and how those relate to environmental stewardship and creation care.

Speaking of environmental stewardship, tomorrow’s MFSA (Methodist Federal for Social Action) breakfast speaker will be Georgia Interfaith Power & Light’s Director, Katy Hinman. Somehow I’ll manage to get up for a 7:00 a.m. breakfast in order to hear her.

I’ll close with one other positive note: Rex presented the Eleanor Richardson Award for Social Justice today, which is given each year to honor a recipient who has worked for social justice causes in the NGUMC. This year’s posthumous recipient was Rev. Sally Daniel, former pastor of Grant Park UMC and former Conference director of ministry to persons with AIDS. In presenting the award, Rex got to say to the whole Conference that one of Rev. Daniel’s accomplishments was pastoring Grant Park as it became one of the first churches in the Conference to fully welcome and include gays and lesbians. So now there have been two positive references to the inclusion of the LBGT community at AC: one by me in my candidate’s speech, and one by Rex today. We’re not the only ones in the Conference who feel this way, though – despite my mediocre showing in the balloting, I continue to have people come up to me and tell me they thought my speech was great, and that they support my candidacy, and most importantly that they believe in the things I said and hope the Church continues to move in that more positive, inclusive direction. So Frodo may have lost the ring for now, but we must continue to believe and hope and work and strive for the day when love and justice will triumph over fear.

12 June 2007

Selection snafus, etc.

The voting for delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conferences has begun in earnest, and as this is my first election year at AC, I am seeing for the first time how the election process truly dominates all other business. Anytime there is a result to be announced, proceedings are interrupted, the winners are announced, and the next vote is taken immediately.

The election mechanism is a bit tricky, but I’ll try to explain it again here. First, we choose 14 delegates to General Conference. The laity have 43 candidates, so on the first ballot we voted for 14 out of 43. Any candidate receiving a majority of votes cast is elected, so on the first ballot we elected six delegates. That left us with eight more to elect, so on the next ballot we voted for eight out of the remaining 37 candidates (subtracting those already elected). It’s sort of an iterative process, I suppose. The main point is that a candidate must get a majority of votes cast on any given ballot to be elected, so it’s possible to have no delegates elected on a particular ballot. In fact, the second, third and fourth laity ballots had only one delegate each elected, so now we’ve elected a total of 9 (out of 14) General Conference delegates, and in our last ballot of the day we voted for 5 out of the remaining 34.

Got that? That’s the easy side. The clergy, who don’t allow for declared candidates, started with all 1,000 or so eligible clergy on the ballot. However, technical problems with the electronic voting software were so severe that 15% to 20% of the clergy ballots were invalidated. Apparently the software couldn’t handle the large number of candidates. The clergy re-voted their “first” ballot again this morning after being assured that the software bugs were fixed. Alas, that was not to be the case, as the second “first” clergy ballot was also rife with errors. The Bishop took the extraordinary step of asking for some clergy (30 or so) to voluntarily remove their names from the ballot, hoping that would allow the software to function properly. Nearly 150 volunteered, so with that reduced number, they took their third “first” ballot, which finally came out valid. Of course, given the huge number of potential candidates, no single clergy received a majority of votes cast. What they’ll do from here is begin to focus on the top vote-getters as having the most reasonable chance of being elected, and vote accordingly.

The results on the laity side have been pretty predictable, as each of the nine elected delegates so far was on the list of preferred candidates of the conservative bloc. Yours truly is lingering toward the lower part of the order; however, I can take heart in the fact that I’m not anywhere near dead last. I wound up 35th out of 43 on the first ballot, 24/37 on the second, 24/36 on the third, and 22/35 on the fourth. My total votes have been steady in the last couple of rounds, which I tend to interpret as showing a handful of hard-core supporters, since on each successive ballot the voters are allowed to vote for fewer and fewer candidates. In other words, the small numbers of people who are voting for me have me right at the top of their list. If I were to try to extrapolate this into some general insights into the NGUMC, I’d say that there’s a significant progressive element out there, and while it’s clearly in the minority, it’s a solid element.

Another thing I’ve pondered on today is the whole voting structure – i.e., why is it set up for successive ballots of fewer and fewer candidates? If I’m remembering my election law and democracy and governance classes right, I believe that this structure ensures that the majority can control most, if not all, of the elected delegates. Were we just to say that the top candidates are elected regardless of whether they receive a majority, the large number of conservative candidates might cancel each other out, while a small number of liberal candidates could get all the votes of the small liberal bloc, thus electing at least a couple of them. As it is, once one conservative candidate is elected, their votes can get switched over to another conservative candidate on the next ballot, and so on.

For all the talk of wanting to have a “diverse” representation on our delegation, so far the elected delegates are 100% white, and are mostly men. There are a handful of African-American candidates running, and some of them have a decent chance of eventually getting elected. There are also a couple of Asian candidates, one of whom has a shot. Unless I’ve missed someone, however, there are exactly zero Hispanic candidates. This is in spite of the fact that the Conference has been touting its growing Hispanic outreach and ministry. We’ve had Korean, Hispanic, and Indian pastors offer prayers so far this week, but none of them are yet represented on the delegation.

One other note: When the Bishop called for us to consider electing an “inclusive” delegation, the characteristics he noted include gender, race, and age, but funny enough, he didn’t mention anything about being theologically inclusive. So far, at least, there certainly hasn’t been any inclusivity from a theological perspective.

11 June 2007

Monday's proceedings

Annual Conference (AC, for future reference) began with the 42 lay candidates for Delegate to General & Jurisdictional Conference addressing the assembled laity, who numbered roughly 1,000. We each had two minutes to speak, and unlike most of the candidates I had crafted an entirely new address for this forum. I've reprinted it below for your reading pleasure. Most of the other candidates, with a few noteworthy exceptions, repeated the same old tirades, bemoaning the declining membership of our denomination and laying the blame for said decline squarely at the feet of the "ultra-liberals". The conservative bloc was out in force this morning along the sidewalks surrounding the convention center, handing out brochures and "voter's guides" to entering delegates (they're not allowed to distribute campaign literature inside the building, but no such restriction applies to the surrounding grounds). Their main concerns appear to be sexual orientation, abortion, "fiscal restraint" (keeping more money in the local churches and not sending so much to the liberally-inclined national church boards and agencies), and "fair and proportional representation" (getting more clout for the North Georgia Conference).

We cast our first set of votes for delegates (both lay and clergy) this afternoon. Unlike the lay candidates, who make their candidacy known, the clergy do not have declared candidates, and so their ballots contain all 999(!) eligible ordained elders. Results will be made known first thing in the morning, followed immediately by another round of voting. Voting rounds apparently will become fast and furious as we narrow the field of candidates and many of the slots are filled. I'll keep you posted, and will be sure to let you know if I manage to garner anything beyond the low double-digits.

Also today was the annual memorial communion service, honoring those clergy and clergy spouses who have died in the past year. Rachel and Patrick were able to join Rex and me here for that service.

And here's that speech of mine from this morning - enjoy!

Sisters and brothers, good morning! My name is Dan Browning, and I want to talk with you about my faith.

Back at our first Candidates Forum about a week and a half ago, Brother Joe Whittemore said that most all of the votes a Delegate casts at General Conference are based on his or her theology. I agree, so here’s my theology in a nutshell.

God is love. Love God. Love your neighbor. Love your enemies. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

I am convinced that the message of the Gospel is a message of radical, abundant, sacrificial love, and one of radical welcoming and inclusion. And yes, just so you can quote me on the record, I firmly believe that this radical love and inclusion should extend fully to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, just as they are.

Friends, the Book of Discipline is not Holy Scripture. We change the Discipline regularly, as we grow in our collective wisdom and knowledge and discernment as the Church. We stand on the shoulders of the saints who have gone before us, and we rejoice in that, but we must not be content to live in the past. If the Church is to truly transform the world and to manifest the life of the gospel in the world - as we are called to do - then we must reclaim our prophetic voice and be willing to speak truth to power, whether that power resides in our government, our society, or yes, even in our own church hierarchy. And as we take up that sacred calling, we must always be careful to “walk humbly with our God”. Thank you.

06 June 2007

Welcome to my church gang!

Because of potential updates and overhauls to our church's website, I've decided to use this personal blog site as your source for updates during the North Georgia UMC Annual Conference, taking place June 11-15. I'll be posting here frequently throughout the Conference to keep you updated on the latest breaking news from Athens. If you'd like, subscribe to the Atom feed (at the bottom of this page) to have updates automatically sent to you. If you have previously subscribed, you probably need to re-subscribe due to changes in my hosting. Or, if that's outside of your techno-comfort zone, just check back here often. Please send comments, either via this site or by email to me at danielabrowning@gmail.com. And while you're here, feel free to browse around the site for other of my musings, but be forewarned that it's not all orthodox (nor is it entirely G-rated, but it's not too bad).

As most of you know, I have placed my name in candidacy to be a delegate to the 2008 General and Jurisdictional Conferences. Since I'm being honest about my beliefs in my presentations, chances are that I probably won't be chosen by the North Georgia UMC laity to represent them, as my beliefs tend to be a bit outside of the conservative mainstream of the Conference. But, stranger things have happened. In any event, be sure to keep me and Rex in your prayers as we seek to "do the right thing" this week.

Last Saturday the Conference held the first of two Candidate Forums - this one was attended by a hundred or so delegates, and most of the Candidates. The Candidates each had two minutes to speak to the assembled delegates. As we are arranged in alphabetical order, my turn was #2 out of the 42 or so Candidates. Here's what I had to say on Saturday:

Brothers and sisters, good morning! Greetings in the name of Christ Jesus. My name is Dan Browning. I stand before you today as a candidate for Delegate to the 2008 General and Jurisdictional Conferences, and I am not here to ask for your vote.

Now, I’m not asking you to vote against me either. I say this because I really don’t think we should be treating this selection process as electoral politics, not in the way the world does elections. The work that we will entrust to our Conference’s delegates will include the crafting of faithful and just responses to some of the most pressing issues of our time: environmental stewardship and the climate crisis, the death of thousands of children worldwide daily from preventable diseases, the inequity of poverty in our own nation, the continuing work of racial reconciliation, and yes, issues of church finances and administration, and of sexuality and sexual orientation. I, for one, believe that these issues are far too important to be decided by campaign slogans and brochures and cards and letters and emails and websites, or by electioneering and voting blocs and lists of “good” and “bad” candidates.

What I am asking you to do is to pray. Pray to know God’s will. Seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit who lives and moves in and among and through us all. Use your God-given wisdom and discernment as you select delegates from among the declared candidates. I began by greeting you as sisters and brothers, because at the beginning and at the end of the day, we are all sisters and brothers to one another. Always be mindful of that. If we do that, then we truly will be able to “walk humbly with our God”. And above all else, abide in love. Thank you.

05 June 2007

Sunday's homily

By popular demand (OK, not that popular really), I'm reprinting my homily from last Sunday's "Peace with Justice" service at my church. Certain references and names changed to protect the innocent. Comments welcome.


Traditionally here at [insert my church name], [my] Class has a Peace with Justice study each spring, leading up to this Sunday, and our Class takes responsibility for designing the service and bringing the message. You might wonder how the topic of world religions and pluralism fits this theme of Peace with Justice. But really, when you think about it, religion and clashes between religions are the cause or catalyst of so much of the war and injustice and destruction in our world throughout history and even today.

Of course, it’s easy to classify religion that leads to violence and warfare as “bad” religion. Some say the answer or antidote to bad, destructive religion is NO religion. No religion, or atheism, is an increasingly popular alternative, according to today’s bestseller lists. With books by such notable authors as Daniel Dennett, Richards Dawkins, Sam Harris, and yes, Christopher Hitchens all bestsellers, one could be forgiven for thinking that there is a Great Revival of atheism sweeping across the nation.

And we all want to escape from bad religion, the accusatory kind of religion that points a finger and says, “If you don’t believe and act exactly like I do, you’re going to hell in a handbasket”. Many of you probably had some encounters, in college or elsewhere, with the guy who always tried to corner you and say “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life – have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior yet?” While YOU were trying to get AWAY from that guy in college, as many of you know, I WAS that guy.

Some of you have heard this story before, but one of the ways I began to change my beliefs away from what I now consider to be “bad religion” was when I spent a summer in Malta working on converting a bunch of Libyan Muslim college guys. But the more time I spent with them, the more I came to think “Hey, these guys seem to be doing pretty well without my Christianity – they’re trying their best to love God and love their neighbor – maybe the fact that they were born and grew up in Libya and were raised as Muslims isn’t so bad after all?”

One of the main things we’ve been studying in Discovery these last several weeks, as we examined various religions of the world, is whether there is some sort of underlying unity among these religions, or at least whether they have more in common than not. Is it possible, perhaps, that all the great religions are attempting to describe the same singular truth, and they just have different ways of going about it?

According to Buddhist teachings, the notion of separateness is an illusion altogether. This means not only that the separate religions with their separate teachings and traditions and theological statements of belief are illusory, but even that our separateness from each other and from the world around us is illusory.

But this isn’t just a Buddhist idea. Maybe you remember from one of my previous sermons, if you were one of the handful of folks I didn’t put to sleep at the time, some ramblings about quantum theory, and how everything is made of atoms, which in turn are made of subatomic particles like electrons and protons and neutrons, and protons and neutrons are composite particles made of quarks, and that the only difference between objects is how these particles are organized, put together, and which molecules they wind up forming. Furthermore, at their most basic all of these particles are really just energy, so everything we call matter is really just energy organized in different ways, all tied together in this one big underlying field.

In case you’re worried that this is just something I’ve come up with on my own, let me reassure you that I consider this to be very much in line with our United Methodist teachings. John Wesley himself taught the doctrine of prevenient grace, whereby the Holy Spirit lives and move in and among and through ALL of us, even if we don’t recognize it.

Recall the passage from Proverbs that we just read – about how Wisdom is the expression of God’s very Self: When God established the heavens, Wisdom was there. When God drew a circle on the face of the deep, when God made firm the skies above, Wisdom was right there beside God, like a master worker, and was God’s daily delight, rejoicing in God’s inhabited world and delighting in the human race. And then in the Gospel lesson, Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit being the Spirit of Truth, coming to guide us into all truth, taking what is God’s and declaring it to us. What I take from these passages is that wherever there is Wisdom and Truth, there is God.

So this idea of there being some kind of underlying unity to all spiritual seeking and wisdom isn’t just a Buddhist idea or some crazy quantum theory idea. It’s also, I believe, very much of a Christian one, at least the kind of Christianity that I consider to be “good” religion. Look at the symbols of our faith – right here on the communion table, there is one loaf. When Rex celebrates communion in a few minutes, he’ll recite those familiar words: “Because there is one loaf, we who are many are one body, because we all partake of the same loaf.”

So maybe there is something to the notion that the religions of the world are similar in value, similar in Wisdom, and their distinctive thoughts and ideas and patterns and teachings have been shaped by the cultures in which they arose. Most of us were born and raised, to one degree or another, as American Christians. Chances are, if you had been born in India, you probably would have been raised as a Hindu, and if you had been born in Indonesia, you probably would have been raised as a Muslim. Is it possible to consider that maybe these are simply various names for the attempts to grasp the ineffable, eternal common truths about the Divine?

We made some very intentional choices of songs for today’s service. There’s the word Shalom, meaning peace in Hebrew, and the word Salaam, meaning peace in Arabic. And if you were an Arabic-speaking Christian, do you know what you’d call God? That’s right, you’d use the Arabic word for God, which is Allah. So isn’t it possible that when billions of faithful Muslims call on Allah, they’re not worshiping some competing deity, but are in fact calling on the same God that we are when we say God?

As well as being Peace with Justice Sunday, today is also Trinity Sunday in the liturgical calendar. On Trinity Sunday we attempt to grasp the Christian mystery of recognizing three Persons in one, three expressions or manifestations of the triune God, and yet we still proclaim that God is one. If we Christians can call God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then why can’t others call God “Allah”? Does the name we human beings assign to God really matter? Does our naming of the ineffable divine somehow change its nature and character? I seriously doubt it.

Our first hymn, “Bring Many Names”, by the great contemporary hymn-writer Brian Wren, reflects this understanding: Strong mother God, warm father God, old aching God, young growing God. Notice that God is always God. The descriptions of God in this hymn are merely the author’s attempt to describe the indescribable Divine. As the saying goes, “God is one, but the sages call God by many names”.

I want to close here with some lyrics from my favorite contemporary hymn-writer, an Irishman by the name of Paul Hewson, though most of you know him better as Bono of U2. The song is called One, which is also the name of Bono’s campaign to combat global AIDS and end extreme poverty, particularly in Africa. I actually didn’t know the full background of this song until I looked up the lyrics for this sermon. As Bono describes it, and I quote:

It's a father-and-son story. I tried to write about someone I knew who was coming out and was afraid to tell his father. It's a religious father and son. I have a lot of gay friends, and I've seen them screwed up from unloving family situations, which are just completely anti-Christian. If we know anything about God, it's that God is love.

Hear these words from the song:

One love, one blood, one life
You got to do what you should
One life with each other
Sisters, brothers
One life but we're not the same
We get to carry each other, carry each other