Is Ross Douthat right that offering communion to divorcees will bring down the Catholic church?


I had always thought of Ross Douthat as one of the "reasonable conservatives" whom I could read and often agree with. But his recent freakout in response to some of the proposals brought up by Pope Francis's Synod of the Family has raised some questions for me. I'm particularly intrigued by his claim that offering communion to remarried divorcees would "put the church on the brink of a precipice." Huh? … [Read more...]

Wisdom from Thomas a Kempis #1: esoteric words vs. virtuous life


Thomas a Kempis was a 15th century German monk who wrote The Imitation of Christ, a classic devotional book that was tremendously influential to John Wesley, the founder of United Methodism. I've flipped through this book many times, but I thought it would do both me and my readers good to go back to it and proceed more slowly through it to meditate upon the wisdom Thomas has to share with us. So I'm starting with the first chapter. I won't necessarily cover every chapter since there are over a … [Read more...]

Why I like Pope Francis’ “God of surprises”

APTOPIX Italy Pope Epiphany

It's little secret that progressive evangelicals like me have a huge crush on Pope Francis and probably project a lot of unmerited wishful thinking onto him. The Roman church's recent synod on the family revealed among other things how little power Francis actually has to impose change by fiat. I respect him for patiently seeking a consensus among the stuffy bishops he's surrounded by. It took many generations for the church to finally admit that Copernicus was right and give up geocentrism. It … [Read more...]

Where I’m actually coming from as a progressive evangelical


One of my most valuable conversation partners on the Internet is a conservative Calvinist campus minister named Derek Rishmawy. In some ways, we are the opposite, since I'm a progressive Wesleyan campus minister, but I think we both recognize in each other a genuine zeal for God's truth. I have a lot of respect for Derek, and when we do actually agree on something, I usually do a happy dance because I feel like I'm on very solid ground. In any case, just as I speculate about the hidden … [Read more...]

When cis-het men play God: evangelical transphobia and the idolatry of gender


Last week, Russell Moore wrote a column for The Gospel Coalition called "Joan or John?" about how to handle the "sin" of transgender identity in your congregation. His column presents the made-up scenario of a transgender woman tearfully approaching a pastor to repent of her sex change. It's a textbook display of the breathtaking presumptuousness of cisgendered heterosexual males who judge people with lives they are clueless about by making false analogies with the sin in their own lives. … [Read more...]

Is God arbitrary? (my point of contention with conservative evangelicals)


Is there anything that God asks us to do for no other reason than because he's God and he said so? I suspect that how you answer this question reflects whether or not you are a conservative evangelical. Because I believe that God is perfectly benevolent, I presume that everything God asks us to do is for our own good, whether collectively or individually. My hunch is that this makes God sound too "humanistic" for a conservative evangelical, whose main concern is defending God's sovereignty. Can … [Read more...]

How mental illness made me a pastor

nami walk

Today my son Matthew and I participated in a walk with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). According to Matthew, it was technically a "parade" instead of just a "walk" because a brass band led the march. Mental illness has had a decisive role in shaping my vocation as a pastor. Many of my insights into the human condition come from my experience of severe depression and anxiety throughout most of my twenties. So I wanted to share some of these insights as my contribution to mental … [Read more...]

When Martin Luther King, Jr. clashed with the Via Media Methodists

Paul Hardin

On first glance, making an analogy between anyone and one of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s adversaries is akin to tripping Godwin's Law by comparing someone to Hitler. Because MLK was always absolutely right and perfect and above all criticism and anybody who ever disagreed with him was a mean and evil racist. Except that's not real history. When Martin Luther King, Jr. and his entourage descended on Birmingham, Alabama in early 1963, a group of well-intentioned white clergy leaders including … [Read more...]

“Against you alone have I sinned” (the solipsism of evangelical morality)


"Against you alone have I sinned." These words from Psalm 51:4 are attributed to the Israelite king David speaking to God after he knocked up another man's wife and had that man betrayed and murdered on the battlefield. Many evangelical pastors have praised this verse for how it names sin, but I consider it to be one of the most morally problematic verses in the Bible. It does do a very good job of encapsulating the solipsistic morality that I grew up with as an evangelical, in which sin had … [Read more...]

Cock-blocking and rape culture

the boot

It's one of those phrases you know not to use in mixed company. But there's a code of honor among heterosexual young adult men at bars and parties. To use nineties parlance, when another man is "busting a move" or "getting his mack on" with a woman, you don't interfere. Because that's "cock-blocking." And I have no idea why it wasn't completely obvious to me before that this unspoken law of young adult male sexual "ethics" is a cornerstone of rape culture. … [Read more...]