Monthly Archives: November 2010

Prayer Request

Quick prayer request… this evening I will be meeting with the Board of the church that I left 18 months ago. This will be my first opportunity to meet with the Board since May 2009.

Out of respect for the process and for the Board members themselves, I am not going to write a lot about the meeting (before or after) here.  But I am hopeful that this will be a time of grace, forgiveness and perhaps even beginning a process of Biblical reconciliation.

I am trying to not to expect too much, while maintaining a sense of healthy optimism and hope.

In any regard, your prayers are much appreciated.

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Posted by on November 30, 2010 in Uncategorized


Two New Web Projects

I have been working on two new websites/projects… the first concerns my catering business, the second a community think-tank about church.



For years, catering has served well as a tent-making enterprise when ministry did not pay (which was often in the early years!)  Now, as a full-time chef, I still pick up some catering gigs here and there.  I am in the process of discerning what I am supposed to be doing work-wise after I graduate culinary school (next week!)  I will be staying at the restaurant I am with for a while, but trying to discern whether that is a place to stay and build a career or whether I might pursue catering full time.  In any regard, I have set-up a draft website for Ben David Catering, LLC.  You can check it out and let me know your thoughts… and let me know if you have any catering/private chef needs.





Full confession: I am a lover of the Bride of Christ, the Church! Despite everything, I have not given up on church and believe that Christ in the church is the hope of the world!  But that doesn’t mean that church-as-we-know-it is necessarily working at its full redemptive potential… or not reaching certain groups, sub-groups and populations.  For the last few months or so I have been having increasingly interesting conversations with different people (usually over coffee or good red wine) about the idea of a “the church as a greenhouse for growing fully devoted followers of Jesus.”

As I have talked with different folks, it seemed that it would be good to connect people together and perhaps start a more formal and intentional discussion on this topic via a community blog.  So that is what we are starting.  I literally put the site up a few days ago and we are still looking for contributors and trying to figure out how it will work… but you can check it out and let me know your thoughts.  Plus, if you would be interested in being a contributor to the new blog, let me know.


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Posted by on November 30, 2010 in Uncategorized


Off the Radar

I am off the radar for a few days, enjoying time with my family.  I will be posting again next week!

Praying you all have a blessed and wonderful Thanksgiving weekend!

– Ben

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Posted by on November 26, 2010 in Uncategorized


A Proclamation for Thanksgiving


Washington, D.C.
October 3, 186

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln


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Posted by on November 25, 2010 in Uncategorized




Let the trees of the forest sing, 
   let them sing for joy before the LORD, 
   for he comes to judge the earth.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; 
   his love endures forever. 

Cry out, “Save us, God our Savior; 
   gather us and deliver us from the nations, 
   that we may give thanks to your holy name, 
   and glory in your praise.”



Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. 

Worship the LORD with gladness; 
   come before him with joyful songs. 

Know that the LORD is God. 
   It is he who made us, and we are his; 
   we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving 
   and his courts with praise; 
   give thanks to him and praise his name. 

For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; 
   his faithfulness continues through all generations.



Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit.




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Posted by on November 24, 2010 in Uncategorized


Can It Get Better Than Pixar?

I don’t post all of the “It Gets Better” videos, but when one strikes me I think it is worth passing along. This one, from Pixar, is definitely worth watching, sharing and thinking about.


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Posted by on November 23, 2010 in Uncategorized


The Tale of Two Fuels

It is the tale of two fuels: one for the body and one for the home.

It is the best of times for The Community Food Pantry that feeds 600 families each month  from the Towns of Bolton and Manchester.  The consistent support of money, food and paper products allows MACC to feed a family for just  $11.00 a week! 

It is the worst of times for the MACC Fuel Bank.  A harsh winter is predicted and federal and state officials have already announced that the funding for heating fuel will be drastically cut this winter.  In addition to this alarming news, the economy has not recovered enough for struggling families to adequately heat their homes, so the need is expected to be greater than the availability of fuel. 

What can we do as a community? 

We can plan now to give the literal gift of warmth to our neighbors. 

Will you join me to  help  fund  MACC CharitiesWarm Gifts Program?  

If you answer yes, we will stand ready to respond to the emergency  fuel needs of our community.    

If we all do what we can, it will be the best of times our two fuels. 

All gifts are 100% tax deductible – especially good at year’s end and/or is  the perfect gift for someone who has everything. Give a donation in his/her name to the 2010-11 Warm Gifts Program and MACC will send an acknowledgement card for you.

Make Checks out to:   MACC Charities and put “Warm Gifts Program” in the memo section of the check.  

Mail to:

MACC Charities
P.O. Box  3804
Manchester, CT  06045-3804

Or give on line:  Under the tribute type choose in honor of and write WARM GIFTS.

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Posted by on November 22, 2010 in Uncategorized


What Changed?

A few folks have observed a change in the content — if not tone — of the blog lately.  I have been asked, “it seems like you are becoming an advocate for gay issues… when did that happen?”

I am not sure that it is accurate to say that it is a change, but perhaps it has become more explicit.



I, like many, have been moved by the recent number of suicides by gay teens. 

You see, one of my ministry passions has always been teenagers.  I began my professional ministry life as a full-time youth minister and did that for five years.  But even after that, I never lost my passion and love for teenagers… still haven’t.

And I have always been an advocate for teens.  So that hasn’t changed.  And when an issue becomes epidemic, advocates and voices need to rise.

I also continually talk to GLBTQ folks who have been cast out, barred or in other ways attacked by churches and Christians.  When churches and Christians act in an un-Christlike way, it demands a response from other followers of Jesus.

So am I an advocate for the GLBTQ community?  YOU BET.

Am I an advocate for the simple belief that God’s love is universal — that the basic claim of the Gospel is that there is nothing you or I can do, either good or bad, that will ever change how much God loves us right now?  YOU BET.

Will I continue to challenge churches and Christians to reassess their assumptions about what God thinks about the LGBTQ community?  Will I continue to challenge folks to seek after God’s heart for the LGBTQ community?  YOU BET.

And will I continue to challenge LGBTQ folks to pursue Jesus? To trust in him?  To follow him with as much integrity as they can? To contribute their gifts and passions to the cause of the church?  YOU BET.

And it isn’t about me or my situation… it is really about those who are constantly being told that they aren’t good enough, that they must change before they embrace Jesus, that there is no room for them in the family of God.

It is about them.

And so yes, I am an advocate for them.  YOU BET I am.

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Posted by on November 19, 2010 in Uncategorized


Essential vs. Non-Essential

Often on this blog, the question of “what is an essential doctrine vs. what is a non-essential doctrine?” comes up.  Specifically, should your theological position on homosexuality be considered an essential doctrine (to which all Christians must agree and those that don’t are either heretical or not believers) or is it an area that is a non-essential and therefore okay for Christians to disagree upon, but still be in fellowship together?

I have proposed that the issue of homosexuality is a non-essential theological issue, based on a 4-prong test.  If you disagree with me, I hope you will either propose your own methodology/test or point out how you think I am mis-applying the 4-prong test I propose.

Since I have posted on this topic before, I am going to re-post it here:


In this last post on the hermeneutical process, I want to step outside of the textual/interpretive issues and look at a broader question: what is an essential doctrine (that all orthodox Christians must agree upon) and what is a non-essential (where faithful Christians can disagree and arrive at different faithful answers)?

Some issues/theological positions have been considered “essentials” to believe to be part of historical orthodox Christianity. Examples of “essential doctrines” include the divinity of Christ, the Trinity, etc. Generally these are the issues you find addressed in the historical creeds. Examples of “non-essential” items are things like end-time theology, whether creation is a literal 7 days or not, different theologies of worship or sacraments, etc. While people may be passionate about these issues, it not essential that all Christians agree. There can be multiple faithful readings and faithful answers. Our approach to theology should be in necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas which translates as “In Essentialsunity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity (love).” (This phrase is often wrongly attributed to Augustine but comes from an otherwise obscure German Lutheran theologian of the early seventeenth century named Rupertus Meldenius.)

So the big question becomes how do you determine what is an essential and what is a non-essential? This is not always as easy a question as it may sound. The best writing I have seen recently on this issue comes from theologian C. Michael Patton.  He proposes a four-pronged test to see if an issue is an essential or non-essential.  He argues (and I agree) that to be considered an essential, the issue in question must meet all four tests — if it only meets 3 of 4, for example, it is a non-essential.

Here are the four tests/questions that Patton sets out (you can read his whole argument over on his blog… here I am quoting directly):

1. Historicity: Does the doctrine have universal historical representation?

This first criteria is one of historical agreement. This is a form of “consensual faith” (consensus fidelium). This criteria of universal consensus follows the canon of Saint Vincent of Lérins (died c. 445): quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus, “that which was believed everywhere, always, by everyone.” In other words, an essential cannot be something new like the doctrine of the Rapture. Neither can it be something that has lacked historic unity by Christians across time like the perpetual virginity of Mary. As well, it cannot have limited geographic representation, like certain Eastern liturgy. The question here is, Have all Christians of all time everywhere believed it?

2. Explicitly Historical: Does the history of the church confess their centrality?

This is like the first but differs in an important way. Here we are saying that if the history of the church has not confessed this as a central issue, then it is not. For example, the history of the church may confess that the Christian worldview includes a firm confession of a belief in the historicity of the Flood narrative, but it has never been a part of the central teachings to the degree that a denial of such is a damnable offense. When combined with the first criteria, the exception cannot define the rule. The point here is that we take seriously God’s work in the history of the Church through the Holy Spirit. If the church has universally believed that a certain doctrine is both true and central to the Christian faith, that doctrine deserves serious consideration as being among the essentials.

3. Biblical Clarity (Perspicuity): Is the doctrine represented clearly in Scripture?

One of the principles that the Reformers sought to communicate is that of the perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture. The Reformers did not believe that all of the Scripture was clear (a misunderstanding of the doctrine of perspicuity), but that all that is essential for salvation is clear. In short, if something in Scripture is obscure, then it is not essential. Augustine even held to such a principle stating that one must not build doctrines on obscure passages (On Christian Doctrine). For example, one should not build essential doctrine on what the “keys to the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 16:19) are or what it means to be “baptized for the dead” (1 Cor. 15:29). Unfortunately, both the Catholics and the Mormons have done just that. If a passage is obscure, no essential doctrine can be derived from it.

4. Explicitly Biblical: Does any passage of Scripture explicitly teach that a certain doctrine is essential?

The Scriptures speak about a great many things, but they are often explicit regarding that which is of essential importance. For example, Paul says to the Corinthians, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4; emphasis mine). The “of first importance” tells us that Christ’s death and resurrection “for our sins,” from Paul’s perspective, are essential components of Christianity. Without such, according to Paul, there is no Christianity (1 Cor. 15:12ff). As well, the Gospel of John speaks about the importance of faith. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18).

In addition to what I quote above, Patton has another post here that looks at how this plays out with specific issues, with spec
ific denominations, etc. You can read that post here.  He also has posted a helpful “test” here for you to look at and determine which issues are essentials and which are non-essentials (he actually presents the essential/non-essential as a continuum with more nuance, but that is more than we need to go into here).

So as a good transition into our discussion of what the bible says and does not say about homosexuality (which I will start next week), let’s first apply Patton’s 4-pronged test and see if this is an essential issue (that all Christians must agree upon and is a salvation issue) or if it is a non-essential (that Christians are free to disagree on and there may be multiple faithful answers.

1. Historicity: Does the doctrine have universal historical representation?

I think on the issue of homosexuality, you would have to say generally YES this question. The consistent teaching of the church universal prior to the 20th century has been against homosexuality. In the 20th century forward, with the advent of modern psychology and a more complex understanding of human sexuality, sexual orientation and the difference between orientation and behavior, many churches and denominations (and Christians) (mostly in Western Christianity) have taken a different view on this issue — but that has been (and, still is) a minority opinion. So overall, I will assess this as a YES on the topic of homosexuality.

2. Explicitly Historical: Does the history of the church confess their centrality?

On this issue I am going to say YES & NO — kind of half and half.  On the one hand, I know of no orthodox church that confesses homosexuality as a central issue. On the other hand, many churches do confess the nature of marriage and human sexuality as central issues in the Christian life.  So I will give this a HALF POINT for YES.

3. Biblical Clarity (Perspicuity): Is the doctrine represented clearly in Scripture?

Obviously this is the debate at hand in many denominational circles these days. And this is the very issue we will be taking up shortly as we look at all the relevant passages on the topic. So I am going to withhold judgement on this issue at this point. (You can actually read my conclusions on this issue here.)

4. Explicitly Biblical: Does any passage of Scripture explicitly teach that a certain doctrine is essential?

On this question, I think you have to say NO. Even the most traditionalist view does not claim that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is an essential issue for Christians or the church. 

So based on Patton’s test and my assessment, homosexuality scores somewhere between a 1.5 and 2.5 on the YES SCALE (depending on how we land on Question #3) — and since an ESSENTIAL issue needs to score a 4, either way homosexuality is a NON-ESSENTIAL issue.

So what does this practically mean? Simply that there is going to be disagreement on this issue (and often, passionate disagreement) but that we affirm that different faithful Christians can and will come to different faithful answers on this issue. And that we can agree to disagree without resorting to name calling, questioning people’s salvation or love for Jesus, etc.

Interestingly, because most of the ESSENTIAL theological issues have really been worked out by the historical church, most of our contemporary disagreements and fights within the church are over NON-ESSENTIAL issues that people feel passionately about.  Other examples — in addition to the homosexuality issue — include things like divorce, birth control, war/pacifism, death penalty, environmental issues, ordination of women, nature and role of sacraments, church governance issues and models, etc.  So to say that issues are NON-ESSENTIAL is not to say they are small, unimportant or that we shouldn’t care. Only that we can allow diversity of opinion and that faithful Christians will fall on a CONTINUUM of thought on these issues.

The idea of the continuum, I think, is a helpful one in understanding these issues.  For example, when it comes to WAR, there is a continuum of Christian thought that runs from Pure Governmental Pacifism, Personal Pacifism, Just Peace Theory, Just War Theory, etc etc.  Is there one right answer? Maybe — but we will never know it this side of heaven. Is this issue important?  Absolutely — literally millions of lives (and deaths) hang in the balance of how this issue is resolved.  But it is not black-and-white, faithful Christians disagree on this issue, and because we understand it as a non-essential, we can agree to disagree.

And the same can be said of all the other issues we mentioned: ordination of women, sacraments, church governance, end-time theories, birth control… etc etc… and homosexuality.

All of that said, one of the things I hoping as we explore the relevant texts about homosexuality over the coming weeks is that each of us would come to a better understanding of WHERE WE ARE ON THE CONTINUUM OF BELIEF ABOUT THIS ISSUE and as importantly WHY ARE WE THERE ON THE CONTINUUM — and then remember always in necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas.

In the meantime, two areas of discussion we can have here are:

1. Do you agree or disagree with Patton’s 4-pronged test? Why?

2. Do you agree or disagree with my application of Patton’s test to the issue of homosexuality? Why?

Looking forward to your thoughts…

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Posted by on November 18, 2010 in Uncategorized


The Trevor Project

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Posted by on November 17, 2010 in Uncategorized

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