“Holy Books and Limitations” By Rev. George M. Rossi M.A. M.Div. BCC

August 10, 2016

The first phrase, “All Holy Books are Limitations” is a concept that I have contemplated over some through the years and at different times in my life.  It is not a statement that I have ever wholesale adopted or given much credence even if my primary knowledge of holy books is the Holy Bible, the Old and New Testaments. I recently saw that phrase posted on someone’s Face Book page.  It caught my attention and the phrase had a ring of truth to it but not ultimate truth.  I am using this phrase as an opposite reference point to the Hebraic truth recorded in the book of Psalms where the psalmist declares that God’s Word is a light and a path for his journey.  In one phrase one adopts the position that wisdom and holy books provide limitations. Some declare holy books to be grantors of limitations.  They are not lights and words of life for those who live in the darkness or purposeless living.  Instead they are walls, darkness, and hindrances to growth.  Conversely, the psalmist declares that God’s word is a light for his path and it helps him move down the highway of life to find life, liberty, happiness, and occasional unspeakable joy.
Where do you find your divine revelation?  For me it is in the Holy Bible.  It is the place where my soul is fed, where my heart is encouraged, where my sins are declared forgiven by Jesus, and the place where I meet God.  It is far from a place of limitation for me.  Actually, it is a beginning point in many respects.  It is a starting place to find God, to find wisdom, to find encouragement which calls me to become a better person, a better Christian, a better chaplain and a better father to my kids.  It is not a book of limitations but rather a book that shows me that I do have limits.  I am surely not God nor can I become God.
So, are holy books places where one experiences negative limitations?  For some the answer is yes.  Holy books get in the way by creating ethics of care, love, work, marriage, parenting and the list goes on.  Divine revelations and holy words in holy books are just man made and less than helpful at best.  That’s what some would say.  They produce limitations for some and I have to agree that is true for some but not for me.  Instead, reading the words of the Old and New Testament give me life, correction, light, and wisdom to live a productive and fruitful life.  I need something outside of myself and that something is God and God’s word.  It is my light and path finder.  It helps me to live a joyful, productive life for God.  It doesn’t limit me.  It empowers me and infuses me with the living Spirit and words that touch my soul and total being.

Will Gender Equality Prevail? – Rev. Dr. Molly T. Marshall*- Triniterian Soundings

Will Gender Equality Prevail?

Many of us are still sleep-deprived after two weeks of political conventions.  Part pageantry, part spectacle, and part the inevitable chaos of democracy, these quadrennial gatherings summon our collective hopes and fears and urge us to take the long view.  The tensions of nationalism and globalism were on display, and we must not shrink from this sobering epoch.

Not surprising, it was deeply moving to me, along with many others, to witness the nomination of the first woman candidate for president.  Pent-up aspirations flooded the arena as well as those get-togethers assembled for the purpose of celebrating this historic moment.  Old women cast votes for their states and young women made speeches.  The optics were grand, but will gender equality prevail?

Gaining the vote in 1920, women can now vote for a woman.  Men can too, if they choose.  Secretary Clinton is not the first to run, and she stands on the shoulders of women like Belva Lockwood and the audacious Shirley Chisholm.  She ought to be on a stamp or something; preserving her legacy matters.



Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm – In 1972, she became the first major-party black candidate for President of the United States, and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. (Wikipedia)


It has been a part of my life’s work to advocate for the God-given liberty of women to pursue any calling God sets before them.  Over these past nearly four decades in theological education, I have seen cracks in the stained-glass ceiling; however, the church has lost many good pastors because of stubborn resistance to the leadership of women.

In Sunday’s New York Times, Nicholas Kristof argued for the big upside of shattered ceilings.  In other words, when women claim their rightful place, men will benefit as well.  I quote from his column:

So to those men who worry about being hurt by the shards from one more shattered glass ceiling, I’d say: Not only is this inevitable, not only is it a matter of fairness, but the evidence is also overwhelming that when women gain power and a seat at the table, we men benefit as well.  So let’s relax and join the celebration.

Thankfully, Baptists and other faith traditions are witnessing a new generation of competent female congregational leaders.  Bursting with imagination and new expressions of leadership, these pastors are bringing renewal to congregations and embodying an inclusive vision that attracts younger adults.  It also attracts some of us feisty older adults, too.

Gender equality is at the center of the Gospel, as Jesus so remarkably demonstrates.  Even the Apostle Paul offers a vision of “all being one in Christ Jesus.”  Dismantling patriarchal structures continues to be a key issue of justice.  I invite you to continue this important work.

*Dr. Marshall was a favorite speaker at the John A. Hamrick Lectureship at First Baptist Church of Charleston. This article is used with her permission. Dr. Marshall is President of Central Baptist /Seminary.


A Chaplain’s Hope for Furman University* – Rev. Maria Swearingen

IMG_3487 (4) - CopyThis summer, two days after nine African-American men and women were slaughtered by a white supremacist in Charleston, Furman-Lake-autumn600thousands of people gathered all over the state to hold hands, process outrage, and acknowledge communal sins. As I watched 350+ people from all races, creeds, and religious traditions pour into the Chapel that afternoon, I was hopeful about what a collective response to racism and xenophobia would look like for our country, for the state of South Carolina and for this campus.

I was hopeful then. I am hopeful now.

Even so, I must be clear. That hope is not borne out of ignorance. As a chaplain and as co-chair of Furman’s presidential committee on diversity and inclusion, I carry a host of stories that pain me to my core. I know Catholic students who have been told they are going to hell, Muslim community members who have been told that their tradition is inherently violent, gay and lesbian students who have suffered slurs and blatant disrespect, international students told to go back to where they came from, and the painful list goes on. Perhaps we like to think these things do not happen here, but unfortunately, they do.

We have much to be proud of. We have a long way to go.

Amidst my awareness, exhaustion, and outrage over moments like the ones I just described, I hold to the seemingly outlandish conviction that it is within spaces of great difference, personal, religious, social, and ideological, that the real project of the university comes to life. Homes for higher education were never meant to merely conceptualize democracy for textbook consumption. The real project has always been to facilitate space, learning, and opportunities for the enactment of democracy. This enlivens and enfleshes discourse, calling us into one another’s lives and stories. Here, we sit at tables and live in residence halls and actively listen in classrooms with people who help us grapple with our bias, re-imagine community beyond our well-worn contexts, and embrace the complexity of difference we all pose for one another.

My hope for “what’s next” at Furman is that we will intentionally and joyfully choose to be a place that presses into this grand experiment with equal doses of fervor and care. We must believe that the project is worth our time, and even at the cost of overdramatizing, the grounding force for civilization.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR  Reverend Maria Swearingen is in her sixth year as associate university chaplain at Furman University. Originally from Texas, she graduated from Baylor University and received her master of divinity from Duke University. She offers pastoral care and interreligious engagement to Furman’s faculty, staff, and students, along with alumni and friends of the university.

*This article first appeared in the Spring issue, Vol.59 issue of The Furman Magazine and is used here with permission.


Approaching Civility in a World Awash in Self – Thomas Crowl*

PSALMS: 138:6…Though the Lord be high, yet He hath respect unto the lowly: but the proud He knows afar off…

Thonas CrowlI observe another American political season filled with vile, hate-filled language attacking the very basis of our democracy. I think on a simpler time when a bright mind called P.M. Forni would pen “The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct”. I look forward to a few months ago when a Charleston Churchman would call for a “Say Something Nice Day” as a reprise to anger and hatred. I look at the 25 rules and see many that look to the denial of self and the observation of the souls around us. It is a blessed similarity.

My dear wife is always the first to remind me that we should always look to the best reason for a particular act rather than descending to the depths of doubt and anger. Our news media calls out to a different spirit and looks to the phrase “if it bleeds it leads” as a sensationalist press seeking to grab the attention span of a media world.

I challenged my spirit today to review so many examples around me of civility. Just the other day a noted country singer would speak the words “always be humble and proud” finding strength in the meek spirit that found genuine pride in humility. I see our Savior on the cross saying “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” pushing back from the well of anger and self-pity that surrounded him. Often civility expresses itself best when we just listen calmly and do not react. In this respectful…inclusive…welcoming way we invite our Savior to be our guide.

Civility is the oil that calms the roughest wave…is the honey in the ears of the tormented spirit and always seeks to “walk in the other man’s shoes” as Franklin Roosevelt once said seeking empathy in a world embroiled in tragedy. Civility is generous looking for the best and offering frequent praise, positive advice and reinforcement to advance our brethren.

The civil world looks to the best that grows within us, respects our positive efforts to improve and gives kindness to the lowly animals and our blessed environment that all may grow in peace. It is an eternal value that is known to God and is so needed in our world where discrimination, separation, isolation and greed call out to us from every corner.

HEAVENLY FATHER…grant to me this day the civil tongue…the welcoming hand and the loving spirit that will heal a divided nation and world gone mad with self. Never let us forget the wondrous example you sent to us in your divine Son those two thousand years ago.


*Thomas Crowl is a retired judge who works in Florida as a volunteer having been born again in His service.

Children and the Internet: Parental Ethics – Robert Marsden Knight*


DRMONTYThis past Christmas my twin 6th grader step-grand-daughters got new i-phones. They weren’t the first among their friends to be entrusted with such a precarious resource. So they were especially excited, given the waiting involved, to have joined their peers in further engaging the ubiquitous computerized culture of these days.

The girls’ mom and dad are hardly “helicopter parents.”  They enjoy their children with a fair and firm hand, providing sufficient family structure, emotional warmth, clear parental boundaries and notable generosity.

I wasn’t, however, expecting a “code of ethics” to be included along with the new i-phones, reminding the girls that responsibility is meant always to be partner with privilege. Their dad said that he got the “contract” from a friend, another father, who got it from a local intermediate school guidance counselor. The girls were required to read and sign the “contract.”

I was so impressed with this particular parental intervention, I couldn’t imagine it not being something thoughtful and helpful to share with other parents of children relative to the age of my step-grand-daughters. Given that children’s access to the morally ambiguous internet in our time is surely a concern to any responsible parent or other supportive, engaged adult.

Cell Phone Agreement

I, ____________________, acknowledge the following:

First, modern technology allows me to electronically communicate with others;

Second, electronic communications can be monitored and recorded by anyone at any time;

Third, nothing can truly be erased in cyberspace;

Fourth, my parents are doing their best to raise me with good character, morals, and values;

Fifth, since my parents have provided me the use of a cell phone, I am to use it responsibly and respectfully;

I,____________________, do hereby agree to the following;

  1. I understand that the cell phone is the property of my parents and I am being allowed to use it with my parents’ permission and any mis-use of it will immediately result in loss of the privilege of using it.
  2. I understand that every text message I receive, or send, may be read by my parents, teachers, and law enforcement officers. If asked, I agree to give my phone to adults in charge without any question or hesitation.
  3. I’ll not send text or generate anything in cyberspace containing profanity of sexually suggestive messages. If crude/inappropriate pictures or messages are sent to me, I’ll let my parents know so we can discuss and take action, if necessary.
  4. I agree text messages/calls received or sent by me can be monitored by my parents. I’ll also not use my phone to communicate with strangers or people I have not met in person and know.
  5. I’ll not read/sent text messages or make/receive calls during the hours that I am at school, or doing any kind of job (homework, chores, babysitting, etc.)
  6. If my grades at school fall or my performance in other activities is affected by the use of the phone, I will agree to further restrictions of its use until the problem is resolved.
  7. I’ll not read/send texts or make/receive calls during a meal with others.
  8. While visiting with or riding in a car with adults, I’ll turn my cell phone off and put it away unless its use is necessary and polite.
  9. I’ll not read/send texts or make/receive calls after _______ on weeknights/school nights. On weekends, holidays and summer breaks, I’ll not do either, as referenced above, after an agree upon time as set by my parents.
  10. My phone will go to sleep each night, just as I do, in a place other than where I sleep.
  11. I’ll not read/send texts or make/receive calls while I am running, riding a bicycle, scooter, skateboard or (in the future) driving any vehicle.
  12. I’ll not use my phone to gossip, spread rumors, defame or tear down another person or people.
  13. I’ll pay for a new phone with my own money if my phone is lost, damaged or destroyed.
  14. I’ll not create any secret or second accounts on any apps including Facebook, twitter, Instagram, snapchat, periscope, or any other applications that allow communications with others by word or pictures.
  15. My parents shall have all passwords for any apps on my phone and will have access to it at any time.

By signing below, I agree to abide by the rules of this contract and further agree that a cell phone is a privilege and not a right and its use can be taken away if any of these rules are broken.

Agreed to and accepted this _____ day of _________, 2015

*Robert Marsden Knight is a pastoral counselor in Charleston, South Carolina.



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