GM 50--Preacher's kid who learned to accept those who don't accept him

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Joined in 2007
January 22, 2010, 12:58

Hi Tim,

I’ve been reading through this thread and the discussion with much interest and wanted to thank you for coming to share with us here on the forums.

I have not yet listened to Bishop Flunder’s message about the canaanite woman, but the post on my blog that Ann Maree referred to is at:

The way I see this story is similar to how Ann Maree interprets it above. I don’t feel that Christ was rejecting her, but rather highlighting the thoughts and attitudes of those around them in this little drama.

Further, I believe this woman had decided she wasn’t going to ‘gather the crumbs’ anymore, but was bold enough to presume to sit AT the table with the master.

It’s always interesting though, to hear and consider an alternative take on Scripture passages. It’s what keeps the journey dynamic and fresh.

Joined in 2008
January 22, 2010, 17:08

Ann Maree,

First, I must tell you how invigorating this discussion has been for me (with hat-tips to AVB and MagzDragon, too)! I truly believe acceptance is the core issue–and struggle–we all must deal with and finding more fellow believers who agree is most heartening!

While I’m convinced accepting ourselves as God made us as well as accepting those who reject us begins with a conscious decision–very much like our decision to follow Christ–it ultimately becomes a process that involves continual study, introspection, and discovery. As a result, we cover a lot of ground. Just as where we are today is different than where we were yesterday, we should anticipate our progress will take us further along tomorrow. The challenge is to never mistake our current position as our final one, because if we do that we put ourselves at risk of no longer yielding to God’s direction. I’m constantly reminded of Philippians 2.13: “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” We serve at His pleasure, which is why it’s essential we flow with His plan rather than stick to ours.

I say all of this because right now you and I are on very similar wavelengths. We both agree wholeheartedly it is self-destructive (and I would go so far as to say “disobedient”) to subject ourselves to malignant hostility and condemnation that masquerades as spiritual truth and “holiness.” You are absolutely right when you say, “I’d worked too much on my self esteem and healing to let the church dismantle that again.” We all must protect and cherish the precious gifts we’ve been given at all costs–even though many will misjudge our actions because they can’t understand our motives. Thank God He reserved judgment exclusively to Himself and since He measures our faith and faithfulness on performance–not church attendance–I’m always careful not to confuse going to church with discipleship or worship. While the former can be extremely useful in fostering the latter, they are not the same thing.

For quite some time, the bruising experiences I had under church auspices made the thought of attending church–ANY church–a harrowing proposition. Even worshiping with open and affirming congregations raised skepticism about getting sucked into congregational life and then finding out all was not what it seemed. I worshiped outside the church also. At the time, I was fine with that for the indefinite future. But as I continued to grow–as God continued to work in me–strange developments started to take place. And oddly enough the first of them was the dilemma you seem to be facing.

Through a very circuitous channel, a lady I’d never met contacted me. She said her 13-year-old son had recently come out to her and because their church was fiercely homophobic, she needed to find a healthier faith community for him and the rest of their family. “What church do you attend?” she asked. The magnitude of her compassion overwhelmed me. I really had to pray for the right answer to avoid confusing or misleading her. Fortunately, she lived out-of-state and I was able to guide her to list of open and affirming churches in her area, encouraging her to visit several and settle where she, her son, and her family felt most comfortable. But the experience sobered me to realize that my burning desire to rescue my LGBTIQ brothers and sisters from oppression was confounded by my inability to verify safe havens really existed. If not for me, for them, I needed to find a church home. What if the next person who asked a similar question lived nearby? What if a friend or neighbor seeking shelter actually asked to go to church with me? I had grown so obsessed with getting people out I’d overlooked the obvious: I had nowhere to lead them back in.

And then the Spirit began dealing with me in another area. Worshiping and studying and praying in solitude met my needs, but it put me in no position to meet the needs of others. What’s more, it cheated me of knowledge, experience, and inspiration others could offer me. I started to feel like a kid who’d rather sit on the doorstep eating a sandwich than venture into the banquet hall and belly up to the table. In spite of the harm done me by misguided believers, my years in the church had equipped me with valuable teaching and gifts I could share. I had more than I needed, yet I also needed more than I had.

Finally, I realized as long as I kept to myself I could never be challenged. I could shape my study and worship to suit me without ever having to bend my will to a Spirit-led pastor or leader. The calendar wasn’t important. There would never be a Sunday when getting to service and offering praise were a sacrifice. And speaking of sacrifice, there was never a time when I had to deprive myself to pay my tithes or support ministries beyond my abilities. I sort of progressed from “I don’t need church” to “The church needs me” to “I need the church.”

Obviously, I wasn’t headed back to a Pentecostal church–too risky. But you must know something about me. The greatest church I’ve ever known was a Pentecostal church, an atypically liberal, affirming, and enormous (25K members) congregation I worshiped with when I lived in LA. The Spirit ruled there and the Word came forth in power and truth. So I had some ridiculously high standards for any place where I would eventually settle. It needed to move and inspire me on that level or forget it. So my first choice was the fancy Presbyterian church in downtown Chicago: lots of pomp, really terrific preaching, but a little chilly in the pews. That didn’t last long. I ricocheted around town and then one Sunday I wandered into the Presby church a few blocks away, right in the heart of Boystown, Chicago’s gay ‘hood. Big rainbow flag over the door. About a hundred people. The choir got extra points for enthusiasm, but the results were spotty. And then the minister called the people to prayer. The Spirit of the Lord filled the place. When the pastor finished her sermon, I realized how much I’d been missing. She opened the Word with authority and brought forth points I’d never considered. I had found a home. And I had a story to tell others struggling to let go of their oppressive traditions because they didn’t think they could find something better.

This is my story, Ann Maree. It’s not a template or an indicator of anything about anyone other than me. But I offer it in love as a testimony that God is working in us to act and to will according to His good purpose. My healing from past wounds isn’t yet complete. At the same time, though, I’m growing in new ways. I encourage you to follow your heart as it listens to the Spirit. Where you are now is where you’re supposed to be. But don’t be surprised if you find yourself somewhere entirely new tomorrow or the day after that. And wherever that may be, it will be right, because your heart is right and you have work God wants you to do.

Sorry for the length, but I felt impressed to share this here to encourage all of us to be receptive to God’s guidance as we learn to accept.

PS: Re Bishop Flunder, I’m responding to MagzDragon’s post…

Joined in 2008
January 22, 2010, 17:21

Meg, thanks for your comment. I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to catch Bishop Flunder’s message yet, but I believe you’ll find it provocative in the same way that Ann Maree and I did. It’s an interesting twist and while I’m not altogether comfortable with the presumption Jesus’s response was as personal as she submits, it somehow humanizes Him on a level I’ve never considered before. I’m prone to agree with you and Ann Maree: it seems more likely He was exemplifying the prejudices of His time rather than exercising them. On the other hand, the concept that the pagan woman challenged His thinking has a certain appeal.

Your post on this text is superb, by the way. And having said that, I hesitate to mention it almost exactly mirrors a post of mine on the same story. If you’re interested, here’s the link:

For me, the greatest revelation of the story is the one you mention: asking for crumbs doesn’t mean God intends for us to settle for them. There’s a great old spiritual that says, “Plenty good room in my Father’s kingdom–choose your seat and sit down.” We all have a seat. He’s prepared a table before us in the presence of our enemies. If any believer–gay or straight–is starving or underfed, it’s not because there’s not enough of God’s love and goodness to go around!

Thanks again, and what a joy it is to engage with such wise and fervent fellow Christians. It’s an honor to be part of the family!

Joined in 2007
January 22, 2010, 21:34

Hi Tim,

I read your post about the pagan woman, and found it both interesting, and exciting that someone had taken the same message from the story that I had. πŸ™‚

As far as church/fellowship goes, I am a member of a newly established Christian Spiritualist church that meets not far from where I live. It’s a different experience to the pentecostal churches I have attended in the past, but it is also a vibrant, fulfilling and nourishing experience.

I don’t think that I, personally would turn back now to attend a Christian church as my experience of God/Spirit/Universe is so much more now than it was previously.

I applaud those who do continue to persevere, but it’s not where I feel I am guided to be at this time.

As for the future, well, that’s not mine to know.

Joined in 2008
January 23, 2010, 07:00


Thanks for your kind comments about the post.

I hope my thoughts about church attendance weren’t inadvertently strident or misleading. I take great comfort in knowing you’re on your path, Ann Maree is on hers, AVB is on his, I’m on mine, etc., etc., etc. My grandfather used to tell me, “This walk with God is between you and Him and nobody else. So don’t let them tell you how to walk or where to walk. You just follow as He leads.”

What I hoped to convey was it’s a step-by-step existence and it most definitely will throw us some curves. I no longer presume to know anything about where I’ll be tomorrow versus where I am today. It may not change. But it’s just as likely to be someplace I never expected. (Well, truthfully, that’s where I am now…)

I’m well acquainted with Christian Spiritualism, having spent my high school and college years supplementing worship at my parents’ church with worship at First Church of Deliverance, a large African-American spiritualist church on Chicago’s South Side. I was drawn there because of my fascination with black gospel music, and First Church was the genre’s birthing ground. When Thomas A. Dorsey and Sallie Ford first introduced their blend of jazz and spirituals, they were shunned by the city’s mainline congregations. But First Church avidly welcomed them. In fact, it was the first church in the US to install a Hammond organ–the backbone of gospel, but at the time an instrument heard only in nightclubs.

What held me there for nearly a decade was the church’s extraordinary grasp of Christ’s teaching in combination with its emphasis on spiritual gifts. It was just close enough to my Pentecostal understanding of the supernatural to make perfect sense. And as an emerging gay teen, its focus on self-acceptance and tolerance was a true godsend. The (gay) pastor, Rev. Clarence H. Cobbs, had a mantra he recited every week during the church’s late Sunday night radio broadcast. He said, “It makes no difference what you think of me, but it does make a difference what I think of you. I can’t allow hate, prejudice, or anything else to keep me from knowing Jesus is the Light of the world.” Although He crossed over in 1979, the three pastors who’ve succeeded him continue(d) to speak those words to this very day.

I genuinely believe we are spirits in the material world–beings born of Divine Spirit housed in clay. Is that not what Jesus meant when He declared, “The kingdom of God is within you?” If more communions taught this as vividly as Christian Spiritualists, I’m certain the materialism and fear that generate so much hatred and greed would be far less prominent. But, alas, it’s not the case.

If you’re interested, here’s the First Church link (although it seems they’ve not updated it for some time):

Anthony Venn-Brown
Joined in 2005
January 23, 2010, 07:43

yes Tim….one of the things I like about freedom 2 b[e] is that we are ver respectful of each persons journey…..for some that is coming out of the church (for a variety of reasons) ……for some it is to stay in churches…….for some….to go back…….and others to live with ambiguity for some time.

It is a journey…..and where we are today might not be where we will be tomorrow. I know my journey has had many twists and turns and the place I am today is somewhere I never expected to be……not in my wildest dreams…..hehe

Joined in 2007
January 23, 2010, 14:40

Ann Maree’s comment was posted in error and I have removed it from this thread at her request.

Joined in 2007
January 23, 2010, 17:24

Hi Tim,

I’ve only just found the time to actually sit down and write a reply to you. It’s not that I have been incredibly busy, but I feel like a duck on a string in the middle of a pond atm. Paddling like crazy and getting nowhere!

I think that the Christian Spiritualist Churches in Australia are somewhat different to the one you described in the USA. Aussies tend to take a very laid back approach to most things, (except sport and pentecostal worship, perhaps πŸ˜‰ )

Anyway, I find my new church very enriching and often challenging, which is as things should be I suppose.

I would love to visit an African American Spiritualist church, I think it would be an amazing experience!

Ann Maree
Joined in 2008
January 23, 2010, 18:01

Hi Tim

I too have found this discussion invigorating and very thought provoking. πŸ™‚

I agree that each of our journeys toward the pursuit of greater wholeness is an ongoing discovery. I can’t imagine ever thinking I’ve reached the final destination where that is concerned. The thought of closing off to further learning would be boring to me because it would mean the end of the seeking and discovery process that I love so much. Apart from that, not considering other perspectives would be an arrogant place to be and that’s one thing I don’t want to be associated with.

I probably appear dogged in my holding onto the truth of my experiences, and perhaps, a little too tightly. πŸ™‚ I guess I am all too aware of how easily I was manipulated and moulded in the past so am fiercely protective of myself and others now. Maybe in being like that, I’ve gone too far the other way? I know I can be hypervigilant and indignant at times. And yet my aim is to simply hold fast to what is good and pure and not be diminished by others.

Thanks for acknowledging my statement : “I’d worked too much on my self esteem and healing to let the church dismantle that again.”

and for what you said here:

“We all must protect and cherish the precious gifts we’ve been given at all costs–even though many will misjudge our actions because they can’t understand our motives.

You’ve summed it up well.

“I’m always careful not to confuse going to church with discipleship or worship. While the former can be extremely useful in fostering the latter, they are not the same thing”.

Yes I agree. When I look at the life of Jesus, I don’t recall him being in synagogues much or seeking out the church authorities. As far as I can see, he avoided the religious as much as possible. He ministered in open air spaces to the everyday people, travelled a lot while simply spending time with the disciples and others in their homes. He was reaching people where they were at, associating with sinners and so-called ‘low lifes’ and criticised for doing so. (Matt 9: 10-13)

“But the experience sobered me to realize that my burning desire to rescue my LGBTIQ brothers and sisters from oppression was confounded by my inability to verify safe havens really existed. If not for me, for them, I needed to find a church home. What if the next person who asked a similar question lived nearby? What if a friend or neighbor seeking shelter actually asked to go to church with me? I had grown so obsessed with getting people out I’d overlooked the obvious: I had nowhere to lead them back in.”

Although I’m not attending church, I have been able to suggest affirming churches based on the testimonies of others. And I am pleased when I see people thriving in faith communities and yet still able to respect my views without the need to try and pull me in. Depending on the circumstances, if someone asked me to go to church with them, I might. I’ve done it before. But as for whether people need to be led back to church, I don’t think they necessarily do. And I think there are lots of spiritual opportunities and ‘shelters’ outside our concepts of ‘church’ that are all too often dismissed by Christians.

I work as a nurse counsellor in the area of mental health so am constantly meeting the needs of others. If you were to define ‘ministry’, I think this would be as close as it gets, and I love my work. One person I know has just reconciled with her church and I’m proud to have been a small part of that process even though I don’t attend church myself.

I still have some fond and very happy memories of my time in church, in worship times and in developing a personal relationship with God. And yet when it’s come to my own development of healthy self acceptance and becoming more real in applying unconditional love, most of the credit goes to my counselling training and community. Within those surrounds, I think I finally started to see myself as God does, and even my frailties and lesser sides were valuable. In contrast, the church communicated that weaknesses were to be despised, eradicated or hidden which had the paradoxical effect of stunting growth. There was this endless striving for perfection, but in a highly restrictive way, so perfection was unattainable and this led to frustration, hopelessness and guilt. On the other hand, the more positive view within counselling actually permitted me to be honest and to really examine these aspects – the beginning of healing. Within this process, I came to embrace the lesser, shadowy parts, and this produced an incredible freedom that positively propelled me toward wholeness and maturity in a way I hadn’t experienced before. Unfortunately I don’t believe this would have happened for me in the church. For others, I’m sure their experiences will be entirely different but for me this is how it happened. (And I am in no way saying that counselling is the ‘be all and end all’ either. Like church, it’s not for everyone).

Regarding the story of the pagan woman (Matt 15: 21-18), I realise I’m not that dissimilar to her. πŸ™‚ And I like your idea that she challenged, not just the thinking of the time, but maybe even Jesus himself. I agree, that notion does have a certain appeal. πŸ™‚

I very much like what your grandfather used to say,

“This walk with God is between you and Him and nobody else. So don’t let them tell you how to walk or where to walk. You just follow as He leads.”

And I too love black gospel music. It moves me in a way that’s hard to describe.

Anyway, I love your passion, Tim, and look forward to more discussions.


Ann Maree

Joined in 2008
January 24, 2010, 10:12

Meg, Ann Maree, and AVB,

Having long ago claimed AVB as my brother, this past week’s discussion privileges me to have two dear sisters of faith as well. I’m deeply grateful for that. And rather than continue our “aggressive agreement” (which I imagine is growing a bit tedious to anyone else who’s reading but not commenting on the thread), I’ll just add a couple things.

First, the discussion here has inspired a most appropriate closing installment in the current “Great Women of Faith” series I’m running on my blog. That will post at midnight Chicago time (CST) and I’ll link it here once it’s up. (It gives some credence to Bishop Flunder’s view, but hopefully in a way that gets to her point–which I think is essential–without raising too many hackles.)

AVB, “he-he” indeed! As we say over here, “Who’d-a thunk it?” in terms of where each of has landed and indeed how far we’ve come. God is truly amazing.

Ann Maree, what a love you are! And in the God-is-truly-amazing vein, I’m so grateful that He guided you into a field where you could find help for yourself while offering help to others. That’s often His way and keeps His principle that what we give comes back to us in manifold measure.

Meg, that was among the major lessons at First Church–spiritual reciprocity. The pastor taught us constantly what we sent out would come back, and of course this is one of the universal beliefs of all faiths, one that I’ve found true over and over in my own life. I think you would find visiting an African-American Spiritualist church a most intriguing and informative experience, because much of what is explicitly taught in less ethnocentric spiritualist environments is largely presumed, due to its wide embrace in African-American culture as a whole. Universalist “doctrines” like divine presence in Nature, the eternal (pre- and post-) existence of the soul, parallel spiritual and physical planes, etc., are foregone conclusions there, with the focus hewing closer to Christ’s principles as the Source of enlightenment and redemption.

Service at First Church I’m sure differs greatly from your experience–for the very reason you suggest. It’s not remotely “laid back.” It’s a spectacular mΓ©lange of “high church” spectacle and Baptist/Pentecostal-style fervor–i.e., lots of robes and ritual and an iron-clad liturgy that gets prolonged by long stretches of improvisational praise and worship when “the Spirit comes.” (It’s best to settle in, because once service starts, you’re going to be there a while. The 11 AM service generally ends around 2 PM.) But, trust me, it’s never boring, and in the process, a great deal of light and healing take place. So if you’re ever this way… πŸ˜‰

Blessings to all of you. I’m doing the very thing I didn’t want to do–running on. Have a terrific weekend and know I’m thinking of all of you as I watch the Open!

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