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A Blur of Trainings: May in Lusaka
Molly leading a training session

After one week at home at the end of April, we traveled with Rev. Banda, the TEEZ Training Officer, to Lusaka for 3 weeks of Tutors trainings. The first week we were at a very large UCZ church near Lusaka city center, St. Paul UCZ. We had 21 participants that first week from six different UCZ congregations in their consistory.

click here for more pictures and stories of training in Lusaka...

Posted May 25, 2011
What if you had to live with all the trash you ever created?

Most of the streets in Lusaka are paved. The main arteries of the capital are nicely paved with asphalt. The rocky, pot-holed, dirt roads in the compounds are paved with plastic bags.

This street in a compound in Lusaka is lined with trash. Plastic bags "pave" the dirt street.

This makes me begin to wonder: What if you had to live with all the trash you ever created? What if there was no garbage collection service to remove, hide away, bury all our waste? What if every water bottle, every Styrofoam take-a-way box, every milk jug, every cereal box we ever bought, we had to somehow dispose of in our own house or yard? How would your home look different? How would your buying choices change?

When I first think about this, images come to mind from Shel Silverstien’s classic children’s poem, “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out!” The poem describes a little girl who happily does her other chores, but hates taking out the garbage, so never does. And it piles up to the ceilings, then it “raised the roof, it broke the wall”… until finally the poem ends:

At last the garbage reached so high
That it finally touched the sky.
And all the neighbors moved away,
And none of her friends would come to play.
And finally Sarah Cynthia Stout said,
OK, I'll take the garbage out!"
But then, of course, it was too late. . .

The garbage reached across the state,
From New York to the Golden Gate.
And there, in the garbage she did hate,
Poor Sarah met an awful fate,

That I cannot now relate

Because the hour is much too late.
But children, remember Sarah Stout
And always take the garbage out!
--Shel Silverstein, 1974

What a disturbing image! Silverstein again succeeds in frightening adults and kids alike into doing their chores, with wry wit and crafty images of the everyday becoming the very monster that leads to our demise.

read the rest of Molly's post...

Posted May 19, 2011
Thoughts on the Ordination of Gays and Lesbians in the Presbyterian Church (USA)

DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in the following post are those of the author and not necessarily those of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church or the Presbytery of New York City.

A majority of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s 173 presbyteries have ratified an amendment to the church’s constitution that removes a provision flatly prohibiting the ordination of sexually active unmarried Presbyterians as church officers....

The action replaces the current G-6.0106b in The Book of Order with new language. That provision, which was placed in the constitution following the 1996 Assembly, requires of church officers “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness.”

As a result of the vote, ordaining bodies ― local church sessions for elders and deacons and presbyteries for ministers ― will have more flexibility in determining individual candidates’ fitness for ordained office in the denomination....

The new G-6.0106b states: “Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life. The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all the requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation. Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.”

-from the PC(USA) website
This decision is not sudden, and it’s not particularly unexpected. The notion that non-celibate gay and lesbian people should be eligible for ordained ministry has been steadily gaining ground in the Presbyterian Church (USA) for some time now; one pastor described it as more like tectonic plates slowly shifting than a sudden massive earthquake. Still, the official change will be difficult for many, and the fact that the denomination as a whole has given more explicit and official (rather than merely tacit) approval of LGBT people in ministry will no doubt cause many to wonder whether they can in good conscience stay in a church that has, as they see it, willfully contradicted in its policy the clear teachings of Holy Scripture.

For my progressive, secular-minded friends and family, it may be difficult to see why anyone would give more weight to the words of a collection of two- to five-millennium-old documents like the Bible than to the assumptions of modern, Western, “enlightened,” scientific culture. For them, it may be easier to write off people on the conservative side of this debate as unenlightened and self-deluded, having surrendered their wills and their minds to a pious fiction. But to my Christian sisters and brothers, who believe that human beings are not nearly as wise and benevolent as we often think we are, that we need guidance—especially in ethical matters—from the Author of life and Creator of humankind, and that such guidance can be found in that infamous collection of ancient documents known as the Bible, this issue is fraught with difficulties and dilemmas, and it requires careful thought and speech as well as disciplined respect for those on both sides of the debate.

Let me acknowledge from the outset that I am an outsider to the Presbyterian Church (USA), a member of a denomination (the United Church of Christ) which has a reputation for being notoriously liberal on social issues (though I myself no longer identify as a liberal Christian). My denomination has been ordaining gay and lesbian ministers of Word and Sacrament since the 1970s, and that fact has something to do with why I became a member. As a person with beloved gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender friends and family, this issue has always been extremely important to me, and I cannot pretend to be unbiased in my ethical assessment of it. But I also want to say that as the spouse of an ordained Presbyterian minister, I have come to see the Presbyterian Church (USA) as one of my communities of faith, and have grown to respect and love many Presbyterians (even “conservative” ones!) as members of my Christian family. What happens in and to the PC(USA) matters a great deal to me.

In a recent conversation with a more conservative Presbyterian brother about the changes afoot in the denomination, he expressed real uncertainty about how Presbyterians could remain united in the face of such major shifts, but also a desire that people of mature Christian faith on both sides of the issue could sit together and dialogue respectfully about their convictions vis-à-vis Christian sexuality. It is in that spirit (and to assist my own clarity of thought on the issue) that I put forward some suggestions for how to think about how followers of Jesus express their human sexuality.

Click to read Ryan's reflections...

Posted May 17, 2011
Molly & Ryan Dowell Baum

Author: Molly & Ryan Dowell Baum
Created: July 26, 2010

"We are the scatterlings of Africa/On a journey to the stars/Far below, we leave forever/Dreams of what we were ..." -Johnny Clegg

Where are we?
The Dowell Baum Team is at home in Kitwe.
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