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Happy birthday, Thomas Merton (Jan. 31, 1915 – Dec. 10, 1968)! ‪#‎Trappist‬ monk. ‪#‎Mystic‬. ‪#‎Pacifist‬. Poet. Social activist. Student of comparative religion. Author of “The Seven Storey Mountain” (1948), among many other works. Quotable quote: “Life is this simple: We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and the divine is shining through it all the time. This is not just a nice story or a fable, it is true.” Buried at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky.
~The Marginal Mennonite Society Heroes Series.

foto di Marginal Mennonite Society.

It is not easy to talk for twenty minutes and resume, on one hand, the signs of hope in the dialogue between Christians and Muslims and, on the other, between Jewish people and Muslims, but I will try.

First of all, thank you very much to professor Mandel to be here and I send my best regards to the Sufi Brotherhood and to the organizing committee. The consideration and love for the edification of the peace encourage us to look for new theological paths, real projects made of commitments and enterprises of musical nature too, just to test exactly where we arrived with the quest for a common Faith which comes from Abraham. This pursuit – although in Italy they speak at least about it, and very often we find not well prepared theologians or not updated  to recent works made in the not far University of Munich – risks to be incomplete. A lot of these theologians, aware of the atmosphere of prudence about religious traditions but ignorance too (the latest which produce especially every kind of prejudices), merely repeat common places.

Thesis of great theologians, like Hans Kung, can mainly be considered over in these days. I am thinking about those answers stated by the catholic Gerard Gaede in his book “They worship the only existing God like us” published by Borla Press last January. A request this one for all Catholic and Christians  to improve any efforts on their way to the quest. It is not enough to be men of good will. I won’t to replace the other speakers who will follow my speech, anyway.  I send a special greeting to Don Bottoni and to all of you here. The Vatican Council  offered very interesting thesis in those days, although in 2006 Ratisbone marked not a very encouraging turning point.  It is suitable, my dear Catholics, to leave behind us hopeful signs to future generations all over the World. Our seeds left along the path will sprout in any moments.

In 1948 Jack Harlan, an American botanist, was picking up plants in Turkey. He found a variety of corn that seemed not important to be collect: “It was the worst wheat corn I have ever seen – he explained -. It wasn’t enough productive and very often decayed before the harvest.” Jack Harlan died in 1982. Then, those seeds that he had picked up in previous years and put in the most important seed bank placed in the Svalbard Islands, North to Norway, had recently let scientists to defeat the bunt, a plant illness that brought whole American north-west agricultural areas to their knees. That corn, considered so useless and ugly, has been used by present generations to face recent food crisis, by creating new corn variety with similar marks than those ones picked up in Turkey.

Between Muslim culture and Christianity there are deep common roots: we are God’s creatures, subjected to God, to be considered responsible before God, both considering human being as God’s product or his servant, basically the need of a struggle for a better and more equitable World, the need to fight for the future generations, which attention could be captured by using love instead of selfishness or using the spirit of privation. Recently, we discovered, thanks to a mutual faith, a use of a more suitable theology and an ecological vision (God as the only real World master)  more or less similar on their basis, and, on the other side, we recognize a mutual need to apply a permanent conversion. Moreover, we verified that Muslim culture and Christianity both began in a persecution atmosphere, and we must assure that we wouldn’t  satisfy God’s will if people had to go away because of their Faith, and that our love for people next to us, let us  discern the connatural dignity that is in every human been. And to recognize the right that who stay better has the obligation to assist the weakest ones.
The Orthodox Metropolitan Georges Khodr, at Saint-Serges renowned institute in Paris (the one who developed the “Christ sleeping in other religions” theory), not only did he claim that the Koran would be a legitimate book of meditation but he hoped for Christians to have a patient and peaceful way of acting, a secret communion with every human being, and a deep faith in God’s  eschatological revelation plan. He used to remind Eastern Christians, though he also visited Bose monastery, that “Christ is no institution, but value, act, hearts transformation into sweetness, simplicity of humility, of gihad (word meaning effort, active engagement, not war just as western translators and Islamic fundamentalists often say) to the afflicted ones”.
In the ecumenical  council of churches (where Protestants, Veteran Catholics, Orthodox and Anglicans are represented), the dialogue, that was hoped after the Second World War, has started after the six days war between Arabs and Israelis in 1967. Some political reasons had previously blocked its development and still today it is difficult to involve women, for example, in a higher level discussion. In fact in Italy there is an “informative exile” between Jews and Muslims during a Jewish culture day or in a meeting occasion with Islam. As the person in charge of Ecumenici Newsletter ( I did not hesitate to write that we are dealing with a structural boundary of the dialogue itself. It being understood that we acknowledge it. The very little is far better than nothing and the debate still remains “a love chant pleasantly sung” (Ez.32,22).
Every synthesis scheme is limited but the objective analysis of Reinhard Leuzer, an Evangelical theologian from Munich, seems interesting to me: first the Koran is reckoned as a revealed scripture as much as the bible is, although the concept of revelation is different in Christianity and Islam, that is taken as an ordinary way of salvation.  The prophet Muhammad consciously  places himself in the traditional belief of monotheism and the message he announced would be revealed from the same God of Jews and Christians; in other words he would have been assigned by God. Thus there is a unitary subject in the history of salvation. The Koran is the earliest amongst divine revelations and it is also seen as a temporary conclusion of the history of revelation. The reason for that other revelation after Jesus Christ can be found today in such ways of popular devotion which look like semi-pagan syncretism no longer depending on the inconceivable and transcendent God, but most of all on the conversion of entire pagan peoples to Christianity.  I point out that Christians have not adopted the whole Law of Moises and despite that  we carry on considering the whole Bible as Holy Scripture and Word of God, because it is interpreted as the Old Testament. For us Protestants the Word of God is the human witness inspired by God and it is still living thanks to the Holy Ghost whispering in the believer.
Actually in the Bible there are contradictions as well as historical and scientific mistakes (let us take the thickness of Jericho’s walls for example, or the thickness of the Ark of the Covenant or else the fact of including the hare among ruminant animals) which do not compromise the Word of God. In that  way we can understand the Koran and consider its single statement being opposite to Christianity as the word of God that does not necessarily contradict Christian belief. Whoever may consider the Bible as dictated by God word by word is the non -protestant evangelical , namely Pentecostal , who never accepts a dialogue with Islam.  That is why in many protestants’ opinion and mine Islam has a privileged place amongst religions. It is no doubt that only a person filled with the Holy Ghost can notice that Ghost already acting in the religious multiplicity men are heading to. In fact the spirit has been given to all mankind and “logos” only goes to where “pneuma” already stands. (Luke 1,3) A Zwinglian has been knowing those thesis since the Sixteenth Century, under various forms and directions. That is why I can call you brothers having in common a perspective of ecumenical and eschatological fulfillment. Where God has the last word as regards final Revelation.
By reading Eb. 1,1-2 I maintain, as Catholic theologian Gaede does, that “God, who had already talked to fathers in ancient times and in different ways (we can add: AND HE WILL TALK MANY OTHER TIMES TO OUR DESCENDANTS BY THE MEANS OF PROPHETS) lately nowadays he talked to us through the Son”. Who can witness God’s mercy, if that witness is true then it can only be the Word of God for Faith is asynchronous by nature. To us the Christians Jews always prove God’s Alliance with his people and they still keep on proving and pronouncing the Word of God nowadays. Besides Christ is already ”inside” the Koran and not out of it! Christ exists “inside” the Jewish canon through the prophecy.
In 1956 Druse Kamal Jumblatt used to ask to Christians of his country: can they take Islam as their own, can they assimilate it without being assimilated, without giving up their own identity? And he used to ask Muslims symmetrically: can Islam find its openness skills like it used to in the first 150-200 years, during a phase of cultural creativity when it used to assimilate a huge part of Greek and eastern Iran-Indian heritage? Today we think we can answer yes, despite Italian censorship and ignorance I did mention.
After those words of hope, which are the projects of hope? Ecumenici newsletter will keep on living by following a theocentric vision thanks to a noahic reading (Gen 8,15-9,17) in Tanakh: the pact of faith between God and whole mankind, through Noah, has not been revoked. This is also a pact which links Islam to Judaism directly. We are conscious of what Jesus says in John 8:58 “I tell you the truth: before Abraham was born, I am!” and just because of that we dare confide in his Word, which is going to be clear in latest times.
Some of the events we pointed out: last year in November in Verona in a Catholic church, there was a concert of Jewish Chassidic and liturgical music performed by Ensemble Shalom. The new-born Lutheran community of Verona- Gardone was the organizer. Please note that one of the main aspects in Chassidic spirituality (Jewish mystical current inspired by Cabala) is:
The most direct way to join God is by the means of music and songs. Sing though you cannot sing. Sing for yourself. Sing in the intimacy of your home but sing!
Another well established sign of hope is promoted by Confronti magazine which organizes a series of events such as flowers for peace, seeds for peace, notes for peace.
Flowers for peace. It is a program that requires the invitation of young Israelis and Palestinians in Italy. After a period of getting to know one another, they would be inserted either in summer experiences with Italian teenagers (such as summer camps promoted by churches, associations and institutions) or in activities during the scholar year. A series of psychological studies shows how difficult the Israeli adolescent condition is, being constantly threatened by suicide bombing terror; on the other side Palestinian teen-agers’ situation is well documented as stuck between occupation violence and the most extreme and militarized factions propaganda. In that context, it is hard to talk about peace. The educational programs are then important to make everyone meet directly, out of the current schemes and prejudices, in a soft environment that makes meeting and friendship much easier. This project has been made more than once thanks to the former funds of the Municipality of Rome, the Municipality of Genzano and the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Seeds for peace. It is a meeting program between adult witnesses of peace, Israelis and Palestinians, who come to Italy either to get to know one another better or to share their experiences and analysis with Italian audience. The particularity of this event is that, after an orientation period about Italian reality, “witnesses” divide in couples, an Israeli with a Palestinian, and put themselves to use in groups, associations, institutions who invited them. Confronti has been carrying on this project from eight years, the same project could be successful also in the region of Lazio. Moreover some travelling seminars are organized in Israel and in Palestinian territories. The seminar schedules meeting with political and religious representatives from both sides, with Israeli and Palestinian social and cultural realities, but most of all it is a meeting with men and women who believe and work for peace, though in extremely difficult situations.  Confronti has been promoting such kind of seminar from eleven years.
A very convincing and moving sign of peace in which I took part in Milan is “notes for peace”, an event promoted by Lutheran Church with the participation of its inner Zwinglian reformed community, under the silence of Italian media. Italian journalists haven’t been giving information about it from years. And yet we send our newsletter to hundreds of editorial units. Not to mention the efforts of promoter’s press agency in each city where young musicians (aged 14 to 17) hold their concerts. Normally there are five young Palestinian musicians from Bethlehem Lutheran School Dar Al Kalima and five Israeli partners from Sasa’s Regional High School in High Galilee. Those teenagers, who are not professionals, have chosen to share their passion with “the other”, with the one generally conceived as enemy; by  the means of knowledge and sharing of music. There are also several meetings in Italian high schools.
And now I am about to resolve by pointing out the initiatives of the group whose members are Rabbi Roberto Arbib, an Italian conservative rabbi living in Tel Aviv, and several Israeli professors who have been developing interreligious dialogue with local Sufi Chekim since 2000. A dialogue born from the mutual will of learning and developing the spiritual tradition that connects Islam to Judaism under prayers, study and meditation in order to build a bridge of peace between both spiritual traditions. The group gathers every week to study the scriptures of both traditions. In 2008 gatherings were dedicated to the study of El Kushairi, who had probably influenced Jewish philosopher Ibn Pakuda in his central work “Hearts’ duties”.
Rabbi Arbib, who knows Confronti magazine very well, has never quit his activities with Sufi brotherhoods in Israeli capital city and beyond the Green Line, not even during the war, when bombs were falling in Israel “in the name of God to the world”. Last January he held conference in Milan Reform Synagogue Lev Chadash. The prayer ceremony with Sufi is objectively an element of considerable interest. By praying the ninety-nine names of God with the zicher (consisting of ninety-nine beads divided in three parts, with a small minaret signaling the following thirty-three beads) as well as with psalms does witness visibly, sonorously and symbolically that we can pray together the Only God. Not only through silence, breath, music, Jewish mantra – namely sounds – and other techniques (Persians often use this until they reach trance).
Neve Shalom – Wahat as-Salaam has also been involved under intifada times. It is the village built because of political intentions where Israelis and Palestinians live together, all Israel citizens. They often started from cabalistic meditation but went on with great and incomparable Sufi mystical tradition (having it also women as important representatives) in order to achieve a common study project. From the jewish side we noticed that Sufism would be compared to several aspects (elements, bodies) of Chassidic movement: the meeting-point is represented by those two mystics and more precisely by the connection of the human being to God and the love of God. It is best to recall that during Persian poet and mystic Gialal al-Din Rumi’s funerals there were lots of Jewish people honouring his coffin.
From the jewish side a new-born self-criticism is also remarkable. Arabs know Hebrew, whereas Jews do not know Arabic (except for the ones in the Israeli Intelligence, so this proves “the other” is considered as enemy). Moreover, Jews seem to have forgotten how to pray with the body, by the means of hands, by bowing down, composure, putting things in order in the Temple itself, etc…  In short Jews should learn again from Islamics who have never given up the fulfillment of prayers. The same prayer  Jewish prophets used to practice. It is then clear that a big reform is necessary in Judaism. Today more than ever.
After a mosque was bombed, Rabbi Arbib apologized and expressed regret, asking to pray for peace with Islamics. Answers were not all positive (there are orthodoxes in Islamic world, too, not only in jewish world) but when that invitation was accepted, Arabs and Jews were bewildered, incredulous, “speechless” . they were astonished of what was going on.
Rabbi Arbib points out that Sephardic Spanish prayer for Yom Kippur ( jewish religious day of atonement) would use language and terms borrowed from Islam. Sephardic Jews always have a relationship of hate (because of the wars suffered) and love towards Islam in the meantime. Sephardic Jews used to say: “when we come back from a small battle, so says the wise (in reality that wise was Islamic but it was not right to say it clearly), we have to fight the great battle”, that war against ourselves, against our evil instincts.
After Moshe Ben Maimon’s death (known in Italy as Mosé Maimonide) Judaism has been constantly influenced from Islam for about 200 years.

And with those dialogues of peace I wish you the joy of common quest. I feel enthusiastic and I hope to have sent you an encouraging message.
Thanks for the attention.

Quaker Testimony Viewed Through the Lens of Theological Ethics – Rachel Muers

  1. Introduction

In Testimony: Quakerism and Theological Ethics (SCM Press,2015), Quaker theologian Rachel Muers considers the nature of Quaker testimony through the lens of theological ethics. This book is academic but accessible in style and will be appreciated by Friends and others who wish to deepen their understanding of Quaker theology and spirituality. In particular, the chapter on the refusal of oaths is a tour de force.

I strongly recommend this excellent book and offer the following summary of key points in the hope that it will tempt you to read it for yourself.

  1. A General Definition of Testimony

Rachel Muers sets out the following general characteristics of Quaker testimony (pp.7-8). She states that it is:

  • An individual and collective response to God’s leading or call.
  • Something shared, sustained, communicated and developed over time.
  • Located in everyday life rather than confined to a special ‘religious’ context.
  • Conduct or action that seeks to communicate, challenge and transform within a particular context.
  • Based on ‘experiential’ knowledge that is tested by the community and open to revision (p.16).
  1. Defines Who We Are

Muers suggests that testimony has been important in defining Quaker identity and forming Quaker community (p.5), however, she also points out that the description of testimony in terms of ‘lists’ (e.g. peace, equality, simplicity and truth) is a relatively recent innovation, emerging during the twentieth century. She argues that testimony displays both continuity and change over time and that “at its best, Quaker testimony calls members of this community to read their past as a preparation for discerning their present and future calling” (p.26).

  1. A Response to Divine Encounter

Testimony emerges as a response to the encounter with God in Spirit. It is our answer to the guidance or promptings of God within us (p.101). Since the ‘ground and spring’ of testimony is our encounter with God, it can regarded as action and speech at the cutting edge of revelation (p.20). Over time Quakers have experienced an on-going sense of being called, gathered and having their condition spoken to (p.20). For early Friends, testimony represented an attempt to live in the same kind of relationship with the risen Christ that had transformed the lives of the apostles and the early church (p.39). This assumes that a direct experience of God’s saving power will be inextricably linked to changed visible patterns of everyday life (p.16). The Light is something that we come to know, see or believe in and our action is prompted by its illumination (p.43). Therefore, the task of testimony is the task of speaking and doing God’s truth, of coming to the Light and walking in the Light (p.45).

  1. Negative Testimony – Interruption and Refusal

For a community with a long-standing commitment to peace and reconciliation, it can seem incongruous that Quaker testimony has often been adversarial, confrontational and negative (p.54). The negative nature of testimony is about a sustained enacted opposition to some power or structure of thought that claims to shape and uphold the world but in fact destroys it (p.58). Testimony is therefore a collective, learned and storied process of ‘doing the truth’ and opposing lies that systematically conceal, suppress or silence the complex reality of the world-before-God (p.63). Because of this testimony has often taken the form of a double negative – a denial of a lie (p.21). Two examples of this:

  • Sexuality – the 1960s publication Towards a Quaker View of Sex was a piece of negative testimony aimed at denying the lies being told in the society of the time about what was and what was not ‘normal’ and ‘healthy’ human expressions of sexuality (p.168)
  • Sustainability – Proclaiming that, when humans assume that they own and are sovereign over the non-human creation, this is a systematically enacted falsehood that needs to be challenged (p.183).

Testimony can be understood as a form of repentance. It is an action of interruption, denial or refusal, rejecting current circumstances without yet knowing what the alternative might look like (p.65). This reflects a reticence about how knowledgeable we really are. It assumes that, although we can know and understand evil within the world, we cannot fully know or understand God. This leads us to a negative form of testimony and what Muers calls an apophatic theology (p.59). In kataphatic spirituality or ‘via positiva’ God is described in positive terms (i.e. God is this or that). In apophatic spirituality or ‘via negativa’ God as mystery is defined negatively (i.e. God is not this or that).

  1. Positive Testimony – Opening Up New Possibilities

Negative testimony leads to positive testimony. Muers suggests that sustained negative practices of refusal give rise to new positive forms of practice. These might be called ‘holy experiments’ (p.81). We deny or refuse what we know in order to do something that is not yet fully known. Such denial or refusal interrupts established patterns and assumptions and makes space for alternative possibilities (p.59). In this sense testimony is future-oriented and open-ended. A testimony ‘against’ something leads to actions that express the hope for positive change (p.85). For example A Quaker View of Sex challenged powerful assumptions about what was ‘natural’ and healthy that wielded power over people’s lives and bodies. This created space for the development of alternatives (pp.165/6).

  1. God’s Way or the ways of the World?

Quaker testimony tends to operate at the point of confrontation between the truth of God and the dominant untruths of a world-opposed-to-God (p.46). Historically, testimony has prompted Quaker to set themselves against any power structure or pattern of life that denies or obscures divine truth (p.118). Quaker stubbornness is not just the result of bloody-mindedness. At its best it is the result of refusal to sacrifice truth to power (p.198). Friends have tried to critique any attempt to make religion fit into a politically convenient box, particularly where this has the effect of creating more outsiders and eventually more victims (p.150).

In the Quaker refusal of the oath we see a conflict between the truth of God and the falsehood of the world. An oath is a symptom of a problem masquerading as a cure (p.113). For early Friends, an oath presented them with a choice between the temporal authorities of this world and the authority of Christ as Lord (p.116).

  1. Communicating – Winning by persuasion

Testimony acts as nonviolent, self-involving communication that ‘wins’ by persuasion rather than coercion. It offers itself freely to be interpreted and misinterpreted by those who see and hear it (p.103). So testimony is fully incorporated into daily life. This is a life that ‘speaks’; it is speech, but it is speech that ‘lives’ fully embedded in a particular context (p.99).

  1. Provoking – Prompting a response

Testimony presents itself to the world and calls forth a response from those who hear it and see it (p.99). It relies on the response of others for its interpretation and reception, much like vocal ministry (p.104). Again, this reflects a focus on ‘entreaty’ rather than ‘contention’.

  1. Inherently Risky and Uncertain

Because it relies on the response of others for its interpretation and reception, testimony is inherently risky and uncertain. For example, James Nayler’s story reveals the ambiguous and risky character of testimony. This includes the possibility of being misunderstood, rejected, suffering and dying or being found to have been wrong (p.146). In addition, we might expect good testimony to look odd and threatening and we might not expect its impact to be immediately apparent (p.190)

  1. Revealing Complexity

Quaker testimony tends to undercut simplistic understandings and reveal the complexity of situations. For example, John Woolman’s simple living and single-eyed knowing made his world more complex. For him, there was no escaping the reality of the situation. His insights restored a sense of the complexity of the world and the real evils caused by people’s inability to face that complexity. In this sense, he shows how truth is more complex than the lies we live by (p.180). Similarly, Quaker testimony has also made the connection between small-scale untruths and the ‘bigger lies’ within our social and spiritual lives. An example of this might be the way small-scale haggling is linked to global unjust economic practices (p.84).

  1. Specific and Situated

In practice, testimony is always specific and situated. The ‘Truth’ is God who is encountered, known, and followed from where we are. So what matters is what we can say from here and now (p.19). Testimony has to be worked out in particular cases and cannot be fully predicted or understood in advance (p.129). Effective and faithful testimony is a matter of case-by-case judgement through a process of discernment, informed by the history of testimony, by the needs of the present situation and by openness to surprise (p.191).

  1. Universal – Open to All

The conviction that every person is enlightened by the divine Light of Christ underlies Quaker testimony as experiential practice (p.41). We all have the Spirit so we can all respond to the testimony of others by turning to the Light within ourselves (p.100). In addition the commitment to an experiential engagement with ‘that of God in everyone’ enables a way of speaking truth that, while it addresses and challenges power, does not simply repeat the dominant ways in which power is exercised and the methods by which success is measured and achieved (p.205).

Happy 77th birthday, Germaine Greer (born Jan. 29, 1939)! ‪#‎Feminist‬. ‪#‎Anarchist‬. ‪#‎Marxist‬. ‪#‎Atheist‬. Free speech activist. Author of “The Female Eunuch” (1970), among many other books. Greer prefers the ideal of “women’s liberation” over “equality with men.” Women’s liberation, she says, embraces gender differences positively, allowing women to set their own priorities and determine their own fates. Equality with men, on the other hand, is mere assimilation, “settling” to live the lives of “unfree men.”
~The Marginal Mennonite Society Heroes Series.

foto di Marginal Mennonite Society.

Happy 75th birthday, Robin Morgan (born Jan. 29, 1941)! ‪#‎Feminist‬. Civil rights activist. Anti-war activist. Poet. Editor. Union organizer. Founding member of New York Radical Women in 1967. In 1968 she helped create W.I.T.C.H. (Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell). Opponent of all patriarchal religions. Author/editor of “Sisterhood is Powerful” (1970) and author of “The Burning Time” (2006), among many other works. Her memoir, “Saturday’s Child,” was published in 2014.
~The Marginal Mennonite Society Heroes Series.

foto di Marginal Mennonite Society.

Happy birthday, Steve Reid (Jan. 29, 1944 – April 13, 2010)! Conscientious objector. Bronxite. Jazz drummer. In 1969, Reid refused to register for the draft. He was arrested and sentenced to 4 years at Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary. Played in the Apollo Theatre house band while still a teenager. Went on to perform with some of the biggest names in jazz and popular music.
~The Marginal Mennonite Society Heroes Series.

foto di Marginal Mennonite Society.

Happy birthday, Tieleman van Braght (Jan. 29, 1625 – Oct. 7, 1664)! Dutch ‪#‎Mennonite‬. Preacher. Defender of the conservative Mennonite viewpoints of his day. Only 39 at the time of his death. Author of “The Bloody Theater or Martyrs Mirror of the Defenseless Christians who baptized only upon confession of faith, and who suffered and died for the testimony of Jesus, their Savior, from the time of Christ to the year A.D. 1660” (aka “Martyrs Mirror”). Not a scholarly work by modern standards. Some of the information in Martyrs Mirror is historically inexact and occasionally incorrect. Always best to double-check dates and places with a modern source like GAMEO (the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online –
~The Marginal Mennonite Society Heroes Series.

foto di Marginal Mennonite Society.

Quaccheri e cristiani non evangelici senza chiesa

Happy 84th birthday, Virginia Ramey Mollenkott (born Jan. 28, 1932)!‪#‎Feminist‬ theologian. LGBT scholar. English professor. Author of “The Divine Feminine: The Biblical Imagery of God as Female” (1983) and “Omnigender: A Trans-Religious Approach” (2001), among other works. Dr. Mollenkott lives with her partner, Judith Suzannah Tilton, in a New Jersey retirement village. Dr. Mollenkott’s archives reside at the Center for Gay and Lesbian Studies at the Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, California.

~The Marginal Mennonite Society Heroes Series.

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This weekend, the core leaders of the Friends of Jesus Fellowship will be gathering in Washington, DC. This is a special retreat, to consider how God is calling us to move ahead as a community in the months and years to come. This gathering comes at an pivotal moment for Friends of Jesus, which has grown and evolved in exciting, surprising, and sometimes uncomfortable ways over the course of the last several years.

Since our early days gathering in Barnesville, Ohio, we’ve expanded beyond our original communities in Detroit and DC. We are now made up of disciples from across the eastern United States – including hot spots like Philadelphia and New York City. At the same time, we’ve struggled to really gather momentum in any one location. All of our local communities remain quite small, and we struggle to find the critical mass that is required to develop sustainable congregations.

We’ve all learned so much in the last few years together. We’v gained so much insight into both what to do, and what not to do. We’ve grown in our gifts as individuals, and we’ve bonded deeply as a scattered band of brothers and sisters in the way of Christ. Together, we have begun to learn what it means to live as friends and followers of the risen Jesus, and how we are called to live that out in our daily lives.

Last September at our Fall Gathering, there was a growing sense that God is asking something new of us. We’ve come a long way together in a very short time, but the journey ahead is going to look different. Our faithfulness to the Spirit will require that we move in new directions, ones that perhaps never occurred to us when we first started gathering as Friends of Jesus. The next steps forward for the Friends of Jesus Fellowship will be different from those that brought us to where we are today.

“What got us here will not get us there.”

Change isn’t easy, but it’s coming for us whether we choose it or not. The challenge before us this weekend is: Are we ready to re-order our lives in the radical ways that the reign of God demands of us? Are we prepared to make Jesus and his new order of love our top priority, even if it shakes the foundations of our comfortable existence? Are our eyes, ears, and hearts open to the terrifying and exhilarating next steps that the Spirit is inviting us to take together?

Jesus teaches us that we cannot love two masters. We will love one and hate the other. Please pray for us this weekend that we would find the courage and joy that comes with choosing our master wisely, embracing the humble way of Jesus as our path of salvation. Ask the Holy Spirit to be with us, guiding our worship and discernment, so that we can see clearly how we need to change our lives. Help us to be faithful to the next steps that God is calling us to. Holy Spirit, come.

Happy 72nd birthday, Angela Davis (born Jan. 26, 1944)! ‪#‎Feminist‬. ‪#‎Marxist‬. ‪#‎Philosopher‬. Civil rights activist. Anti-war activist. Professor. Author. Candidate for Vice President on the Communist Party USA ticket in 1980 and 1984. Gay rights activist. Anti-death penalty activist. Prison reform activist. Counterculture icon.
~The Marginal Mennonite Society Heroes Series.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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