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May 2010

Beloved Community

If you read last night's sermon, you get some sense of my core motivating ideals through my ministry and community work the last five years.

One of my hopes had been that CoH would become a center for organizing, first, the LGBT community in its civil rights movement.  Much like the churches operated in the African-American civil rights movement, I hoped that we could become the spiritual and emotional center and effective organizing force of our civil rights efforts here in Oklahoma.  That did not happen, and is one of my regrets upon leaving.

Ecstatic Fellowship

Ecstatic Fellowship

John 16:12-15

by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones

Cathedral of Hope -- Oklahoma City

30 May 2010

This is Trinity Sunday. And now I must confess that all of this was an elaborate ruse to get all you non-Trinitarian's in church today for a sermon on the doctrine of the Trinity.

In our group of clergy colleagues, I've been considered one of the more orthodox ones. Now, not as orthodox as Matt Meinke, to be sure, but moreso than most in the group. What I contend differentiates me and Meinke is that my orthodoxy is more "metaphorical," which allows me to be somewhat wishy-washy.

For instance, my very first sermon at Cathedral of Hope as a candidate for your pastorate was on the Second Sunday of Easter. The text was the Doubting Thomas story. I preached on the resurrection. When I had finished preaching, Mike Piazza, then the Dean and National Pastor of the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, leaned over and said he had never heard a sermon quite like that in which someone who believes in an historical resurrection heard what they wanted to hear and someone who believes in a metaphorical resurrection heard what they wanted to hear. I told him, "Thank you."

It's not that I don't have views or even deep convictions on these topics. The problem is that I have views, plural. They shift and one day go one way and another day a different direction. And even at the same time I hold positions that don't necessarily fit very well together. Maybe that's why I insist so much on mystery and have little interest in certainty.

I've never really had a problem with the Trinity. The first non-Trinitarians I met were Pentecostal Holiness – my best friend in sixth grade and his pastor father. They rejected the doctrine as non-biblical, arising from the creeds. I didn't care much for the creeds either, but though I knew what they were rejecting, I was never clear on what they actually believed, because they clearly believed in the divinity of the Creator, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

To me the early Christians were simply trying to make sense of their experience. They had encountered divinity in these myriad ways and attempted to explain how it all fit together. That was an noble enterprise, even if the resulting creeds are filled with tortured words and are based upon an Aristotelian physics that no one currently believes. In college I toyed with the idea of restructuring the doctrines of the church on quantum mechanics, but I'm not smart enough to do that.

Though I've never had much problem with the Trinity, I have also always been a little heretical, at least since college. In the Southern Baptist hymnal, the first hymn is "Holy, Holy, Holy," a Trinitarian hymn. The final line of the first and last stanzas is "God in three persons, blessed Trinity." Well, since college I have been skeptical of this idea of three "persons" and so I have always sung the line "God in three persona, blessed Trinity." I've really worked out how to fit three syllables into two beats! That line I usually sing just a little softer than my normal boisterous volume for hymn-singing. I didn't want to startle the sensibilities of those around me.

Truth is, despite being an academically trained and Ph. D.-certified metaphysician, it isn't the metaphysics of the Trinity which interests me. In fact, that rather bores me. What does interest me is the politics, the ethics, the economics of the Trinity.

To me the foundational confession of the doctrine of the Trinity is that divinity is a relationship of becoming, or what my favourite theologian James McClendon calls an "ecstatic fellowship." The goodness and love and power and glory flow forth from one to another until they overflow and that goodness, love, power, and glory spill out onto all creation, inviting it too to participate in the dance. All creation is touched with divinity and invited into a deep, ongoing relationship with each other. Ultimately, then, God's dream for creation is that it participate in what God experiences – ecstatic fellowship.

For me the doctrine of the trinity is an invitation into a way of living. It is an on-going adventure into novelty, calling us forth into relationship with one another.

In 2005, shortly after I received the call to become your Pastor, I pulled down off of my shelf the massive volume of the collected works of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I'd owned the volume for about a year and had not gotten around to reading it. But I knew I'd better start. Mike Piazza and Jo Hudson had conveyed to me that accepting the role of pastor of this congregation was more than a pastorate, it was taking on a role as a leader in a civil rights struggle and that I needed to be prepared for press conferences and rallies and protests and all the things that accompany a civil rights movement.

Well, if that was the job, then I needed to sit at the feet of one of the masters, so I began diligently reading Dr. King's works. And there I found what I was looking for – the philosophical, theological, and pastoral understanding for what lay ahead. And I have returned often to his words – for strategy, for advice, for comfort, for inspiration.

Dr. King envisioned a "beloved community." To achieve that, we must demonstrate love even to our enemies. Our means and methods must be as noble as our ends. In tonight's first reading, we glimpse his understanding that building this community is to work with the whole of creation toward its aim, its purpose. To work against this community or not to engage actively in its construction and embodiment is to work against the very creation.

Listen again to these words:

all life is interrelated. All humanity is involved in a single process, and all [humanity is] brothers [and sisters]. . . . There is a creative force in this universe that works to bring the disconnected aspects of reality into a harmonious whole.

I believe that harmonious whole to be the ecstatic fellowship. I believe that these powerfully eloquent paragraphs from Dr. King say far more about what the Trinity is than anything in the ancient creeds of the church.

The last five years I have understood my work here, in the church and through the church in service and in mission to the larger community, to be the on-going effort to build the beloved community. For me it has not simply been about civil equality or making this an independent, self-supporting congregation. Our work has been to create a better, more just, more peaceful world, because that draws us closer to ecstatic fellowship with one another, awakening the divine in each of us.

May your journey ahead be filled with adventure as you continue this holy work.

Maureen Dowd gives a devastating critique of the President

Her Op-Ed column for the NYTimes.  Excerpts:

Too often it feels as though Barry is watching from a balcony, reluctant to enter the fray until the clamor of the crowd forces him to come down. The pattern is perverse. The man whose presidency is rooted in his ability to inspire withholds that inspiration when it is most needed.


The wound-tight, travel-light Obama has a distaste for the adversarial and the random. But if you stick too rigidly to a No Drama rule in the White House, you risk keeping reality at bay. Presidencies are always about crisis management.

Where you know and are known

My inner Wendell Berry voice has been talking a lot this week.

One of the reasons I came home five years ago was to be a part of changing Oklahoma for the better and knowing that in this place I could have a type of life and ministry different from that which I could have anywhere else because this is home.  This is the place where I know and am known.  My relationships run wide and deep.

At Geoff's ordination last Sunday there were people I knew in attendance whom I knew completely independent of my knowing Geoff.  Another minister I had never met grabbed me and said I would be missed, both my ministry at CoH and my writing in the Gazette.

Last Sunday in Shawnee we partied with the Speaker pro tempore of the State House and his family and then during the week while he was in session we were in the gallery protesting legislative action.

And yesterday I had lunch with Pete Keltch and the maitre d' called me by name (I did not know him) and when Peter mentioned that I was moving, the maitre d' expressed dismay and said, "Who will speak up for our rights?"

Full Circle

Back in the summer of 2005 I had just started at CoH-OKC, when I received an e-mail from someone I didn't know who was just coming out and wanted to talk about her faith, coming out, etc.  I was to have many, many such conversations over the last five years (and I'd had them before, but always with people in the church whom I already knew).  It was to become a new component of pastoral care as pastor of CoH-OKC, this pastoring people one didn't know and weren't part of one's congregation, at least initially.

We e-mailed and later she came to church and we got to know one another and enjoyed a good pastor-parishoner relationship, meeting regularly for coffee and to discuss all sorts of issues.  We were in a small group together as well. 

She pretty quickly went through the coming out stages.  At the same time I was learning to live into this role of being pastor of this church, its own coming out in many ways. 

Today we met for coffee again.  We hadn't seen each other in a while.  She no longer attends church because of distance and obligations, but we remain Facebook friends, e-mail occassionally, and she has popped into church a few times.

It was great catching up.

And as I left, I reflected on the journeys we have both been on the last five years and how much we've both grown and developed.  It was a blessing today to have this moment and to be able to reflect upon it.

Get over gay fear, U. S. allies advise

Leaders of foreign militaries comment on the on-going discrimination in the American armed forces and how it hurts the United States.

Though we maintain a respect for the American people, their military and their political process, we share a sense of puzzlement — and a sort of shock — at the rhetoric we heard surrounding "Don't ask, don't tell."

As Congress prepares to vote on this, we hope our international perspective can be of some value.


In addition to protecting our men and women from enemy combatants, we must also protect them from anti-gay and anti-lesbian discrimination.

Increasingly, this is not a situation we and our personnel will tolerate. So we are less able to help accomplish our collective missions

Dispatch from the Future

My latest Oklahoma Gazette column is a piece of political satire, which imagines what might happen at the confluence of a number of proposals offered and actions taken during this legislative session.

An excerpt from the high school textbook The Story of Oklahoma, 4th edition, published in 2057:


The second decade of this century began during the “Great Recession,” which did not initially affect Oklahoma as significantly as other states.  There was on-going investment in public works, enthusiasm over the new NBA franchise, and an increasingly diverse and flourishing local arts and music scene.


Two themes began to dominate the political life of the state.  . . . [Read more]

Our life as a couple

Often when I am at an event alone, someone asks, "Where's Michael?"  Like their assumption is that we will be at things together.  I guess other couples have that assumption, but it rarely works for us.  We are so busy individually and collectively, that we even often split our collective invitations/involvements so that at least one of us is attending an event.  Here, for example, is our most recent Sunday morning.

8:00 -- Michael leaves to go to the office and make copies for an afternoon meeting

8:15 -- Scott leaves, driving to Shawnee for nephew's baptism

8:30 -- Scott checks with Michael to see where he is; he is about to leave work

8:50 -- Scott calls Michael again to give directions; Michael is currently near Tinker, also driving, separately, to Shawnee for baptism

8:55 -- Scott arrives at Wesley United Methodist Church

9:00 -- Worship service begins

9:25 -- Michael arrives at Wesley United Methodist Church

9:26 -- Baptism of our nephew Connor

10:00 -- Worship ends; coffee time

10:30 -- Arrive at my sister's house to start getting ready for birthday party; Scott squirrels himself away in the study to work ont he final draft of his sermon; Michael blows up balloons

11:15 -- Scott prints sermon and joins the rest of his family

12:00 -- Guests begin arriving for the party

1:30 -- Connor gets his birthday cake

1:35 -- Michael leaves, heading to Norman for meeting; he had planned to leave at 1:15

1:55 -- Scott leaves, heading to Edmond

2:05 -- Scott calls Michael to see if he is making it okay; he is stuck behind slow-moving cars on Highway 9

Sometime after 2:00, Michael arrives for work-related meeting in Norman.  Details of his itinerary at this point on are sketchy, as he and Scott have no contact again until 9 p.m.

2:55 -- Scott arrives at Southern Hills Christian Church in Edmond

3:05 -- Run-through of Geoff Brewster ordination begins

4:00 -- Ordination service begins

Sometime in the late afternoon Michael arrives back home to spend a little time with his visiting twin brother Robert, who has been stuck at home alone all day.

Early evening, Michael leaves to attend Courtney's graduation with Tarae

5:55 -- Scott's part of ordination is complete; he hurries from sanctuary to drive quickly to CoH

6:10 -- Scott arrives late for CoH service, but in time for processional!

7:00 -- CoH worship concludes

7:30 -- Scott drops Tom off at his apartment and heads for home

8:00 -- Scott and Robert start watching Lost finale

8:30 -- Scott orders pizza for dinner

9:00 -- Michael arrives home

9:15 -- Pizza arrives

11:00 -- Scott goes to bed

Michael gets to bed sometime later in the night