Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Truck Stop Cafe

I had to write a story for my contemplative listening class, about something that happened to me over the summer. This is what I came up with. I hope none of you think less of me...

This summer, my mom and I went on a road trip across the country. One day, we found ourselves in the tiny town of White Sulfur Springs, MT. We asked the gas station attendant, my first experience with full-service gas by the way, where we could grab a bite to eat. He directed us to the Truck Stop Café, the only place open because it was after 6.

It was a half-block away and there were only two other cars in the parking lot. We went inside where the waitress/hostess greeted us with her dead eyes. The only other people in the café were the cook, who was leaning on the counter, watching us as we walked by, and three men in the back, all wearing slightly grungy looking clothes and talking about farming. I could tell they were regulars by their demeanor. They give us a cursory glance before returning to their food and conversation. My mom and I were the only non-Caucasians there, and I wondered when the last time an Asian person crossed the threshold of the restaurant. I began to wonder if we are the only non-Caucasians in town.

We followed the tall waitress with curly blonde hair to a booth. She looked like she was in her early twenties, doing her best to keep up with pop culture with her black T-shirt with day-glo logo and pierced bottom lip. After handing us our menus, she asked in a monotone, “Can I get you folks anything to drink?” We were “folks.” That was good, right?

We both ordered waters and then bent our heads over the menu when she left to get them. I pointed out the polish sausage soup to my mom and we both laughed.

My mom’s phone rang. She answered. Not only was I thinking about how rude it was to talk on your phone in a restaurant, I knew she was about to go full bore Filipino with her rapid-fire Tagolog. I became acutely aware my “Asianess” and the men in the back of the restaurant. I knew they could hear my mom talking, and if I had to guess, were each in their own minds trying to figure out, and failing, what language she was speaking. I wanted to tell her to get off the phone, but I figured she would have the common decency to end the conversation on her own. She proceeded to talk for a good five minutes or so, ending the conversation shortly before the waitress came back to take our order. I, in the meantime, was actively trying to suppress my fight or flight response.

We tried to make small talk while we waited for our food, and a few minutes later, a family of five came in. I could tell by their dress and their accent that they were from out of town. And, I relaxed.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Letter from the New Zealanders

I'm sorry to be such a downer today, but I just got an email from the church in New Zealand that I was hoping to intern at. They are no longer interested in having me as an intern because they do not believe homosexuals should be in leadership. Here is the email:

Hi Charles,

I have been concerned for some time as to why we did not seem to be getting a very clear picture of who you were either from you or your referee and we were considering setting up a skype interview. I guess this explains something and I am glad you have told me about this. Unfortunately it does make a difference. Our church’s stand here is that homosexuals are not able to be in leadership. As far as we are concerned it would make things very difficult and we have so much going on for us in terms of our ministry already that this is just not a consideration for next year. I am also now planning on taking study lave from June to August so chances are coming here would not have worked out very well for you.

I am sorry this is unfortunate. We do have a couple of young men in our congregation who believe they are gay and this is ok with us so don’t think we are hardened towards you it’s just it just wouldn’t work out.

We will have to leave it there.


I guess it's all for the better because I need to find a new church to sponsor me for ordination, and it would probably be difficult for me to develop a relationship with a new church from the other side of the planet. I guess I'm just the world's punching bag today.

Letter from the Santa Barbarians

And now, since you have all been waiting so anxiously, the response from the Santa Barbara Presbytery as to whether or not they will let me attempt ordination through them:

Dear Charles,

I am writing in response to your email of September 19, in which you informed me of the decision of your session to withdraw their support of your coming under care of the presbytery, and in which you asked for my opinion on whether the presbytery would entertain taking you under care if you came to us with support from another church. I informed you that I would take the matter up with the Committee on Preparation for Ministry (CPM) for an answer,

The committee met on September 23 and discussed your question at some length. In addition to your email, we had information which I obtained from a personal meeting with the Word of Life Session, and with Pastor Ron Urzua. I believe I/we received the same basic information from all three sources. Specifically, the session is unwilling to endorse you for possible ordination to the ministry of Word and Sacrament because you consider an active gay lifestyle to be an acceptable expression of righteous behavior according to the teachings of scripture and our confessions. The session disagrees with your theological position on this matter, and considers it important enough to constitute a disqualification for ordained office in the PCUSA. We understand that this decision has been disappointing and hurtful.

I have gone into the above detail because I wanted to be sure we all agree on the basis for your session’s decision, as you are asking, in effect, if the presbytery would come to the same decision. The committee’s answer is based upon the assumption that we all agree on these facts. If that is not the case, our answer may not adequately address your question.

Based upon the above, it is the opinion of the current CPM of this presbytery that we would consider your theological position on this matter to be outside the bounds of Reformed theology as we understand it in light of Scripture and our confessions. We would refer you specifically to sections 4.087 and 9.47 of our Book of Confessions, and Chapter G-6-0106b of our Book of Order. There are a multitude of scripture passages in support of these references.

Having said that, we must express our reluctance to make such a statement to a brother in Christ with whom we are not in close relationship. Our entire life as believers is to be lived within a particular expression of the body of Christ. It is within that context that we come to know Christ, ourselves and each other. Word of Life is that body for you, and we encourage you to hold close to it and not abandon that relationship. Scripture tells us that “Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, and deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” (Pr 27:5-6) We pray that you will devote sufficient time and energy to discern whether your church – those closest to you in Christ – may be your best friend in this matter.

In Christ, and for the committee.

Robert Farrow

Clerk of the Committee on Preparation for Ministry

Presbytery of Santa Barbara

Basically, they do not want me to seek ordination, lest I profess my heretic, and more importantly disgusting, theological stance with people that might consider me to be some kind of authority on the subject in the future should I in fact become ordained. The email doesn't exactly answer my question though, does it? Very tricky...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Spirituality Concentration

My presbytery met on Thursday, and one of the things that they were supposed to discuss was whether or not I would be able to attempt to go through the ordination process there or if I would need to find a new presbytery. I haven't received word yet.

In the meantime, I have gotten permission to make a mosaic at Holy Grounds. I am doing a spirituality concentration as part of my degree, and we have to do a semester of spirituality practice and reflection and I got permission to do this art project for it. Here are some of the sketches.

Christina took some pictures while I was working.

Here's what it looks like so far. I'll keep you updated on the progress, and also if I ever hear back from my presbytery.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Blog Fog

Okay, I keep messing up with this thing. I guess the one day a week thing isn't working. Earlier this week, I wanted to blog, but I told myself I needed to wait for Saturday. Now, it's Saturday but I was too busy today to blog. I guess I need to get rid of the idea that this is going to follow any kind of regular format now that I no longer blog every day. I guess I'll just blog as I feel led to, but it will probably still be at least once a week, just not on a specific day. I also realized that I've been forgetting to import my blogs to facebook. Oops.

Here's an update for those that don't know. The session of my church, after meeting with the representative from the Committee on the Preparation for Ministry in my presbytery of Santa Barbara (I just accidentally wrote Satan instead of Santa. Freudian slip?), has decided that they can no longer sponsor me during the ordination process. Please note that I am not saying that the CPM representative instructed the session to do this, I am only indicating the timeline of events. The session feels that because I am an unrepentant homosexual and that I do no believe it is wrong to be a homosexual, that our theologies are diametrically opposed and that they could not in good faith support by bid to become a Presbyterian minister. In order to go though the ordination process, you need to be sponsored by the church you are a member of. So, although they are not technically kicking me out of the church, I am forced to leave if I wish to pursue ordination. I'm pretty sure that if the PCUSA denomination at large were to decide that being gay was okay in the eyes of God, then the congregation might leave. This is the group that was holding the confessions of the denomination over my head as one of the reasons that I should not be gay. I don't want to get into the logic of it all, but it seems very hypocritical to me.

I'll write more about this when I can get all of my thoughts in order. At the moment, I'm waiting for a response from my presbytery about whether or not I should waste my time trying to get ordained in the Santa Barbara Presbytery. I sent the email days ago but have yet to get a response. Life has just gotten very interesting, and I am currently trying to recover emotionally from what happened. Please keep me, Word of Life Presbyterian Church of Oxnard, Santa Barbara Presbytery and the PCUSA in your prayers. We need it.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Oops I did it again

Sorry for the Britney reference, but I totally forgot to blog yesterday! And, last week, for anyone that was paying attention, I was freaking out because I thought I blogged 3 hours late, because I was so exhausted I thought it was Sunday morning. Of course, it was actually Saturday morning and not late at all. *sigh* I don't know if I'm ever gonna get used to this new format that I've given myself.

Now: Learning the Greek alphabet. Not so bad. Thems memory cells seem to be in fine working order after a summer of being on the go. We'll see how the grammar goes. Grammar is basically my Kryptonite.

First week of school is over. Usually when I'm starting a new year of school, I'm good at doing my assignments right away. Not so much this time. I'm barely getting to my homework now. Why oh why did God make me a procrastinator?

Saturday, September 4, 2010


Okay, I totally forgot about my blog today. There was a lot of stuff going on and I'm not used to this blogging on Saturdays thing. There was a welcome week party at Trinity house this evening, the intentional Christian community house, our school's version of a frat house, where there was food and wine and singing and much connect four playing. We had a grand old time.

As I was playing connect four, and losing, with one of the new first years, named Daniel, we discovered our mutual love of the Magic: The Gathering, that wonderful collectible card game that I've mentioned once or twice on this blog. Daniel just happened to bring a ton of Magic decks with him to school, so we made a quick escape to Holy Grounds and dueled it out until 3 in the morning. The last game, which lasted probably about an hour, was one of those truly epic games that only a Magic player can understand, so I won't bore you with the details here.

Thus far, the new students seem like a really really great bunch and I can't wait to see what they have to bring to our school community. All I can say is that I need to get ready for another awesome year at SFTS!