A Reading for Advent – Oscar Romero

No one can celebrate
a genuine Christmas
without being truly poor.
The self-sufficient, the proud,
those who, because they have
everything, look down on others,
those who have no need
even of God – for them there
will be no Christmas.
Only the poor, the hungry,
those who need someone
to come on their behalf,
will have that someone.
That someone is God.
Emmanuel. God-with-us.
Without poverty of spirit
there can be no abundance of God.
-Oscar Romero

An Open Letter to Fuller Seminary Expressing My Sadness and Disappointment For The Expulsion of a Lesbian Student

Recently, I learned with a deep sadness, after reading the LA Times article, that Joanna Maxon was expelled because of her same-sex marital status. I was surprised this was the position the Seminary took, not because it isn’t known that it has anti-LGBTQ stances, but because the action against a student in this way seems outside of the Gospel of Grace as I know it; moreover, this action does not reflect what I know Fuller to be capable of. As an alumnus of the Seminary, I feel compelled to write to say how disappointed I am in this decision and, more basically, that such a policy even exists. I plead with you to change this policy, and welcome a new era of theological reflection that includes all of God’s people.

I made my own journey from an anti-LGBTQ stance to one of affirmation and inclusion, performing the first same-sex wedding in my Quaker Yearly Meeting, being fired from an Evangelical seminary for advocating on the behalf of a transgendered student, and doing my dissertation research on the first queer-led Christian Quaker church in history. Within a few years of beginning my studies in 2003, I built on the tools I learned from the Fuller Seminary faculty, moving to a position of being open to and affirming of all who fall outside of heteronormative and cis-gendered identities. I know that I am not the only student, staff, and faculty member who has made similar moves as a result of being at Fuller and experiencing God’s grace there.

And yet, here we are, taking a stance against a student and expelling her because of what is a rebarbative policy. Policy can be changed. And when it goes against what is right and good in the eyes of God, policy should be broken. We have come to a time in history in which positioning ourselves on the side of heteronormativity and patriarchy causes deep spiritual violence. As Christians we must always stand on the side of love. Historically, Fuller has had a commitment to love, holding a position within the theological world that is broad and deep, welcoming of diverse experiences, languages, and convictions. It is a space where students are given the freedom to explore God, biblical teachings, divergent theologies, and contemporary spiritualities within a container that remains committed to Jesus. This Generous Orthodoxy is how I understand what it means to stand on the side of love above the law. I benefited from this experience and I wish that others, such as Joanna Maxon can as well, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, race, ability, and class. If you want to apprentice yourself to the Christian tradition Fuller should be a place where this can happen.

There are so many of us that want this for Ms. Maxon and others who are now threatened by this kind of policy and the sentiment that underwrites it. I want these students to know that there are those who support them and believe that actions like these do not reflect the God we know.

My hope is that Fuller will overtime eradicate these policies that do not reflect the teachings of the gospels, the table fellowship of Jesus, and the realities of God at work in our culture and world today.

My hope is that Fuller could witness to the Gospel in how it treats its own student body and community.

My hope is that Fuller can challenge Christian supremacy in a world that has suffered enough spiritual violence at the hands of Christians.

Know that I, for one, support the seminary in undergoing the work of God in this way and I know that I am not alone in this.

Prayers for growth and grace in this movement,

C. Wess Daniels, Ph.D.

William R. Rogers Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College

More on the Coffee Front

As you know, I’m a big coffee fan. I have been for a long time but then it became a much bigger part of our lives when I started up a small coffee roasting business. I have been doing that for over a year now and am loving the work of learning how to roast and sharing that with folks in our community here in Greensboro. But to take it a step further, I’ve decided to start a coffee blog about my various travels and the coffee shops I visit and enjoy. I am calling this blog: The Coffee Path. Check it out. And if you’re into simple coffee reviews and recommendations, you can subscribe at the bottom of the webpage.

Thanks for reading!

Wess

More Than Half

Today is Emily’s Birthday

I turned 41 in October. My wife, Emily, who celebrated her birthday today (11/17) is right behind me. While we were at dinner this afternoon, it occurred to us that we’ve celebrated more birthdays together than we celebrated apart. We’ve finally tipped the scale and have spent more than half our lives together. Our relationship is a gift to me in so many ways, but one is the ways in which we continue to allow each other enough space to grow and change, shifting with the times and needs of each stage of life. When you love someone, it is amazing to watch that person evolve and age with time. To share life so closely with another is envigorating as it is challenging, but to do it in the context of love is the best place of all. I am who I am in no small part to this person who I have spent 20 years side-by-side with.

After birthday dinner, we talked about how many of our friends have told us that their forties were their most favorite decade, I’m prepared to have that kind of positive experience myself, but honestly, each decade has been good, even when it was hard. Today, as I write this (11/19) I am reminded that 16 years ago my step-father killed himself. I’m reminded of many other loved ones we’ve lost, and countless failures and mistakes I’ve made over the years. But I also have so much to be grateful for from the past 20 years of being together.

Here’s just a short list of a few things that have happened in the midst of Emily and I creating a life together:

  • We have three wonderful children together
  • Lived in four states
  • Had 6 different full-time jobs and many more part-time gigs
  • Visited Paris, England, Ireland, and Scotland
  • Visited many states and had two cross-country road trips
  • Lived in 8 different homes
  • We’ve lost a parent and all of the rest of our grandparents
  • We have suffered the loss of many dear friends
  • The evolution and maintenance of faith, political views, and expectations for everyday life.
  • Experienced plenty of broken relationships, and sometimes saw them restored.
  • And so much more, how do you sum up almost 20 years in a list?

But the thing that stands out to me the most is the friendship. The friendship on one person over a long storyline of ups and downs, multiple climaxes and resolutions, laughter, joy, tears, and heartache. Each turn of the page more revealing, more dynamic that the last.

Emily, I wouldn’t change a thing. And I’d do it all over again. Repeatedly. I look forward to the next 20 years and how we improve upon the storyline.

Using Evernote to Find A Good Everyday Carry Backpack

If you know me well, you know I like bags. Backpacks, briefcases, canvas bags, “hip sacks,” you name it. I’ve been known to hunt for a good sale, or clearance item to fill a bag need. For instance, I’ve had more than one Timbuktu bag in the last 15 years that I bought from Sierra Trading Post at a steep discount. More recently, I had a slight obsession with finding the perfect “Everyday Carry” bag for work. I spent a decent amount of time researching all the latest bags on the market, Goruck, Evergoods, Aer, Incase, eBags, PRVKE, Nomatic, and more. Through this research it became very obvious to me that following blogs like Carryology, and learning about bag materials, makers, eco-friendly alternatives, techie components is a serious guilty pleasure for me; that I’m here admitting it to the internet is another thing! But, I did a lot of research into some of the most recent and really cool everyday carry bags and I wanted to share it here in case there are any other bag nerds lurking nearby.

Here’s what I did and what I learned.

Using Evernote, my preferred notetaking app, I surfed the internet using the search engine DuckDuckGo and captured all the bags I found interesting into Evernote (using the Webclipper) and then created a table of contents of all those “notes” into one master note titled “Backpack Table of Contents.”

Evernote Research Note

After that, I created a list with everything I wanted/needed in a bag. I took some time prior to take notes of things I was looking for in a bag over the course of a few weeks, but then I summarized the key components into a list. I turned that list into a table in Evernote at the botton of that same note (see picture below). Evernote makes it really easy to make nice-looking, quick tables.

Next, I began reading and searching for all the bags I could find on the market that were being recommended by reviewers. There’s a whole Everyday Carry community online where I found many of these reviews . If you’re interested, two great places to get started are Carryology and Everday Carry. Then, as I found a bag of interest, I added it with the webclipper to my “backpack” folder in Everynote. At this point, I wasn’t necessarily doing deep research, I’m just skimming, trying to see what is the basic landscape, what is the language that people use to talk about different compartments and features, what are the materials, etc.

From there, I created a Table of Contents out of all of those different notes that went at the top of this one research note. Looking at the image above all those numbered items are the result of that Table of Contents. Those are each separate notes you can select and go into. The reason I did it this way rather than directly linking to each website from this note is largely because this is more expedient, capturing something with webclipper, then selecting 10 notes and hitting “create table of contents” and its done. No typing, no back and forth between various sites to get links, copying and pasting, etc.

The fourth step in this process was to narrow down my results and begin populating my table. I started with the the top bags that I thought would come closest to what I was looking for and began adding them to my chart. I’d add an image of the bag, the name, the cost, a link to it’s note or webpage, and then I would work my way down the checklist (to the left) of features I wanted/needed. This took a little time but it was fun andreally helped me to sort out what I was looking for, and disaggregate the important from the preferred. Here is how the note began to take shape.

Summary of Key Findings

What did I learn from this process? It’s hard to find a bag with everything you want in it. This is probably why many people have more than one! There are so many options out there and so many differences between them. As you can see from my research there are some that come very close to having what I want, but then they’re missing one or two key features, or the material they use isn’t great. But really my main takeaway is that there is no one perfect bag for everyone’s needs.

Second, a bag with a lot of opinions about how you use it is not for me. While I had all kinds of things I thought I wanted in a bag, it turns out that what I really want is one that is easy to pack and unpack, and can be used with different packing cubes, and other organization things.

A third is material really really matters. Scuffing, cleaning, zippers, etc. I bought one bag that I thought I’d really like, the Aer, and it looked really nice but the material had me contantly concerned that I was going to scuff it up. Add that to the fact that it had tons of pockets but not of them really fit with what I needed and I decided to return in.

Conclusion

After all of this, I ended up staying with the bag I already had, a Goruck backpack and adding some more organizational features like the Field Pocket, which offers plenty of extra pockets, uses the upper space on the inside of the bag nicely, and ties into the MOLLE straps inside the bag to (see the top photo). Add that extra little organizational feature gave it everything I needed, and I can take the Field Pocket out when I want to use my Goruck for overnight travel which I often do. In the end, I enjoyed learning more about all these different bags, how they’re manufactured, etc. and using Evernote to help distill down all that information into something useful.

A Refreshed Site!

I’ve been blogging on WordPress.org since 2004 and blogging since at least 2001 (a Xanga site for those of you keeping track). Recently, I came across my old blogroll (a set of links of blogs you followed, supported, wanted to give props to), and 8 out of 10 of the link were dead. I couldn’t believe it. This is a sad state of affairs as far as I am concerned. I haven’t always been able to stay on top of blogging the way I would like, or the way I used to, but I love having this site, seeing people continue to find it helpful, and using it to share what I’m thinking about, working on, and into at the moment. Long ago I gave up the idea of making an income on my blog and the dream of having millions of hits each week. Instead, I’ve settled in, gotten comfortable with what I am able to offer here, and happy to have it as my “front porch in the Internet.”

Part of that settling in, was realizing I didn’t need to run my own self-hosted website any more, I didn’t need a server any more, and I don’t need to be doing PHP and behind-the-scenes coding. So a few weeks back I migrated from the WordPress.org self-hosted blog to WordPress.com. For those of you outside this terrain, I went from driving a manual transmission to an automatic. In this case, someone else is taking care of update software, plugins, etc. I pay for the service and I blog. At this point in my like, that works for me. Please excuse the broken links, weird formatting, etc. as I continue to work to update the site.

I hope you’ll continue to read along in the coming years. I’m not going anywhere and I’m going to continue to develop the material on this blog, opening up the themes more. I’m going to share and write about whatever you might find me talking about on my front porch, rather than limiting this to Quakerism or theology or academic topics. I have far more interests and ideas and energy and this seems like the best place to share them. In other words, I plan to go back to old school blogging.

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Resisting Empire: The Book of Revelation as Resistance is Now Here!

Dear readers of Gathering In Light, my second book, “Resisting Empire: The Book of Revelation as Resistance,” is now published as a paperback.

This edition of the book is updated with new material, a poem by Quaker poet Rashaun Sourles (@rashaunps), a foreward by Wes Howard-Brook, whose work I heavily draw on in my own book, and the afterword by Rev. Darryl Aaron, pastor of Providence Baptist Church, a historic African American Church here in Greensboro, NC.

The book is about the book of Revelation in the New Testament, the one so often used to predict terror, the end of the world, and wild conspiracy theories. It offers a different way into understanding what Revelation is about. If you’re someone who has avoided this book, had it used against you, or are interested in liberation theology reading of Revelation, I think you’ll be interested in Resisting Empire.

It would make for great book and small group studies and if you’re interested in having me speak about the topic in your meeting, church, or podcast hit the contact button above and I’d love to see what we can arrange.

Thanks for your support!

-Wess

Purchase here:

Origin Stories: Celebrating Barberton Friends Church

Recently, Barberton Evangelical Friends Church in Barberton, Ohio – the first church I ever worked in – celebrated their 75th anniversary. As a token of my own love and appreciation for this community and their investment in me, I wanted to share some of my fond memories and role this community played in my early pastoral life.

In the fall of 2000, my systematic theology professor at Malone College pulled me aside after class and asked me what I planned to do after college. I told him that I had felt called to go into pastoral ministry. He said that sounded great and inquired about my current work situation. I told him that I was working at a place called the, “Flaming Pit,” which as you can imagine didn’t sound like the kind of place you’d find a nice Bible and Theology student hanging out. (The Flaming Pit was a BBQ restaurant and I was waiting tables). I didn’t make much money there because it was slow and small, but the owners were really sweet and let me eat dinner there when I worked, which I appreciated and often relied on because I was putting myself through college and needed all the support I could get.

Dr. Dymale, offered a suggestion, “Don’t you think it would be a good idea to try working at a church to see if you like pastoring?”

A thought that had never occurred to me!

This was pre-Quaker, pre-pastor Wess. I don’t honestly even know if I knew anything about Quakers at that point, and I was coming from a non-denominational church so I planned to just look for anything remotely interesting.

Shortly after this conversation with Dr. Dymale, I headed to the Bible & Theology department and opened the big Three-Ring binder that was full of job postings. Eventually, I found a listing for a youth pastor for Barberton Friends Church and called the church up. Next thing I know, I was eating pizza with Pastor Brian Cowan at the Pizza Oven (MY FAVORITE!) in Canton, Ohio. I don’t remember the specifics of that conversation, but I remember liking Brian and being offered the job either on the spot or shortly after.

I worked at Barberton from the winter of 2000 until the summer of 2003 when Emily and I moved to Pasadena, CA for grad school. In that 2.5 year timespan, I learned and grew a lot personally. I was challenged, found success and made some good relationships along the way. Best of all, I discovered I loved to pastor. Beyond these general things, a few specifics come to mind: I gave my first sermon at Barberton Friends. And by first sermon, I mean I preached for probably 50 minutes with basically all the ideas and thoughts I’d stored up for the first 22 years of my life! When I finished that inaugural sermon, Emily said to me that the sermon was more like two sermons and that she looked forward to my next one when I didn’t have 22 years of material stored up.

Besides being my first place to pastor, and my first place to preach, it was also the place where I became a convinced Friend, lingo for when I decided to become a Quaker. As a Bible and Theology student, coming out of a non-denominational church, I was not big on the idea of denominations. I sort of thought they were signs of a lack of faith, not as spiritual as the kind of church I was coming from. This is a perspective that some non-denominational churches have and it is one I picked up on, even though I doubt it was something explicitly stated. Being at Barberton Friends, was a curious place to find myself. I began reading about Friends history, I wanted to know who these people were that I was working for, what was their theology, what were they about? I had the experience of realizing in the midst of this study that I was already a Quaker, not that I wanted to be one, or hoped they’d accepted me, but that I was already a Quaker and had – in some way – always been one. I had the experience when reading the histories and theologies that “this puts language to things I’ve always felt and believed.” I doubt that my “convincement” registered much at Barberton Friends – I think it was something more personal and individual at this time for me, but something shifted that, as it turns out, would impact the rest of my life.

Out of this experience I began to look at the Evangelical Friends Church community – here I do not just mean Barberton but the many other churches and connections to Friends I gained through Malone – I was surrounded by. By becoming a Quaker I was instantaneously connected to a global family, a thought I loved and continue to love to this day.

I loved this community and could see how they had invested in me. I decided to begin the process of being recorded (Quaker Speak for something like an ordination process) by the yearly meeting there, but I also felt a growing tension between what I was reading in Quaker history texts and what I was seeing around me. Why did “Friends” today look so different from Friends in the first and second generations? What happened and why the disconnect? Are there ways to retrieve what is most important about that tradition for today? To a new Quaker with very little knowledge or understanding of the Quaker world these questions felt paramount, now I see them much better for what they were – my own seeking to find an expression of faith that closely aligned with my own understanding and experience. These issues eventually led me to grad school and to my dissertation and to what I do today.

In reflecting on all of this, and so much more – my friendship with Brian Cowan, his early support of me and guidance as I began my pastoral work, his commitment to helping people no matter the cost, and his deep faith continue to inspire me. The youth there – who are youth no more – many of them I remain in contact with and keep tabs on to this day. I cannot recognize the role of Barberton Friends enough. It is the place and the cause of my convincement. It was the beginning of my Quaker journey and a major catalyst for my questions around change and renewal and the Quaker tradition. I could not ask these questions, let alone understand them enough to begin to truly wrestle with them without first having been invited to be on the inside of this community, where I was able to learn not just what the books say, but experience how the people live these things out.

I celebrate the ongoing work of this community and pray for its vitality and faithfulness well into the future.

Howard Thurman on the Act of Creation

“The simplest definition of art is that it is the activity by which people realize their ideals…We are all artists in the sense that we are all engaged in some kind of activity by which we are realizing our ideals. What kind of ideas are you realizing? There is no neutrality here. Everybody is engaged in this activity.

Is what you are realizing worthy of you, or are you engaged in the realization of ideals of which you are ashamed, and before which you stand condemned in your own sight? Long, long ago, it was said by a very wise and understanding friend, “By their fruits ye shall know them…”

Pre-Order the Print Version of “Resisting Empire”

Hi Friends, many of you has asked about a print version of “Resisting Empire” and it is almost here. You can now pre-order it:

The print version, proudly published by Quaker independent publisher Barclay Press, also has new material that is not in the kindle edition: poetry from @rashaunps, foreward by biblical scholar Wes Howard Brook, and afterword by pastor Rev. Darryl Aaron of Providence Baptist Church here in Greensboro, NC.

Here is some of what Rev. Aaron and Wes Howard Brook writes:

The book of Revelation, according to C. Wess Daniels, is a resistance text for “Angelic Trouble-makers,” who must learn how to remix, understand how scapegoating functions, recognize the shaping and forming powers of liturgy, and discover the composition of the multitude…. I pastor a people who have historically been pushed to the periphery of all existence, even ontologically declared as non-human or three-fifths human. Therefore, to read the “multitude is a beautiful tapestry woven together of all humanity, with those who were lynched, those who were oppressed and victimized, at the center with the lamb. This centering of the victims and marginalized is something that is too often missed within western, white, middle-class Christianity today,” makes my soul happy. This prophetic claim of Daniels places Black people at the heart of God.

–Rev. Darryl Aaron

No other book has been as consistently and wildly misread as has John of Patmos’s visionary narrative. And yet, at the same time, no biblical book carries as much passionate power and imagery aimed at inspiring Jesus-followers to “come out” of the place of imperial violence and domination and to dwell instead in the light- and love-filled realm of God. C. Wess Daniels masterfully and clearly lays out a series of reading strategies and perspectives culled from the best of recent scholarship to invite readers into engagement with John’s vision. If you’ve been drawn to study Revelation but have been stymied as to where or how to start, you can trust Wess’s step-by-step guidance to lead you into the depth and breadth of this unique narrative.

–Wes Howard-Brook