Tim Sisk

“Time won’t leave me as I am, but time won’t take the boy out of this man”--”City of Blinding Lights”, U2

Monday, June 11, 2007

Monday, April 09, 2007

Worth Reading "Stupid Evangelical Tricks"

I'm not sure I agree with the title of his post (I don't like the "stupid" and "tricks"), but I certainly agree enough with the substance of his post, that I wanted to pass on the internetmonk's "Top Five Mistakes" evangelicals are making right now.

HT: Locust and honey

Monday, September 12, 2005

Blog Move

I'm moving my blog over to a new website: TimSisk.com. I'm still building it, but my posting will be over there. Please update your bookmarks, come over and read, and continue the conversation with me.


Hat tip: Kaus

My apologies to Dean

Dean responds to my Venice UMC-Sheehan Post Mortem 3 here. I think he's right. If you don't follow the links you won't get his full comment. Also, after reading my post through I've concluded I didn't properly mitigate the part of his comments that I respond to with the full post.

I think blogging etiquette prevents me from substantively editing the post, so I'll leave an update at the post and quote Dean's full comment to the Venice UMC-Sheehan Post Mortem 2 here.

He wrote:
About this partisan question: I am actually very cautious here. I was asked by the Washington Post about clergy endorsing candidates from their pulpits. The article is now archived by the Post and you have to pay to read it, but Maggie Gallagher quotes part of my remarks. I said that I cannot imagine endorsing a candidate myself, but I believe strongly in the freedom of the pulpit. If Scripture led a preacher to condemn a candidate --say someone preaching in Germany in the 1930s condemning Adolph Hitler when he was running for office -- we have to defend the freedom of the preacher to do that.

Then too I am thinking this way: once a candidate is elected, talking about him or her isn't partisan anymore. They are now everyone's president, everyone's Secretary of Defense, etc., whether you voted for this administration or not. Criticize away if your engagement with Scripture leads you to this word.

Why did no one call preaching about Clinton's sexual mistakes partisan? Aren't policies that result in people living or dying just as much a matter of morality?

Tim, where's the flaw in the way I am thinking here?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Venice UMC-Sheehan Discussion Post-Mortem, Part 3

Here is my response to comments (here and here) by both Stephen Fife and Dean Snyder:

Dean and Stephen:

Dean writes here:
Why did no one call preaching about Clinton's sexual mistakes partisan? Aren't policies that result in people living or dying just as much a matter of morality?
A sentiment echoed by Stephen:
Thank you Dean for raising my point again. Why is it only bad when it involves Bush and not Clinton?
I’ve made it clear on my blog that I believe it wrong to mix partisan politics with religious activity regardless of the political party being supported or denounced. I'm not expecting you to know that, after all, my blog is only a month old. But let me state for the record, I’m no fan of the Moral Majority, Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family (when they are involved in politics), or any other politically active religious right group even if I share some political and theological values with them. Raising the issue of Clinton seems to me to be a diversion, as I haven’t suggested that it was okay to preach against him nor was my blog around at the time to comment upon it contemporaneously.


Stephen asks here about pastors who spoke against Bill Clinton and John Kerry:

So what am I supposed to do? Should I write to all these pastors and demand them to explain their actions?

My answer: If they are United Methodist and you are in covenant with them, then, yes, you should engage them. (Which incidentally I did when I contacted the Rev. Tom Zeigert, appealing to our order as the ordained, about the Venice UMC Event that sparked this discussion). Be respectful, but seek a conversation with them. Regarding clergy from other denominations, I don’t think we really have a covenant that can allow for such conversation to take place except with our own personal relationships with pastors from other denominations. And, I would add, ecumenism can be damaged if we regularly practice judgment with one another without that convenant.


The fact that you raise the issue of Clinton pretty much confirms my point to begin with. Mixing religious and political activity leaves the preacher and the church open to charges of inconsistency and hypocrisy. It is almost impossible to be completely fair because of our own political predispositions. We tend to turn a blind eye to those whom we agree with politically while searching for ways to condemn those with whom we disagree. And surely you aren't suggesting that its okay to do anything just because the other side does it. (That is how conflict escalates into war, btw). I punish my kids equally for hitting one another, no matter who started hitting first.

Further, it is easy to recognize political problems that require a Christian response. *Solving* those political problems can be much more difficult. Prayerful, reflective responses may involve a variety of faithful but diametric approaches.

An example: poverty. Very few Christians will debate that one of our primary places of ministry should occur among the least and the lost. But how do we evaluate governmental social policy in light of these concerns? For example, many of the Christian left opposed the Welfare Reform Act during the Clinton administration. (I know the National Council of Churches opposed it. I’m pretty sure that the General Board of Church and Society did as well but the links were broken when I did a search at the United Methodist website.) They did so with a certainty that would take the breath away from the most die-hard fundamentalist (one of the glaring weaknesses of the fundamentalist is the perspective that sees things so simplistically that it is almost dualistic: black and white or right and wrong, there are no gray areas).

Was the Welfare Reform Act that sought to fix the problems of the Great Society programs immoral? Did the Bible say that the welfare programs of the Great Society were the right approach? I don't know. I don't know enough about economics, law, political theory, or the welfare program to be able to speak with that kind of certainty. I'm just preacher. But I have read widely enough to know that the issue is complex and that reasonable people will disagree. Here I want to point you to two secular writers. Read this post by Megan McArdle which deals with the complexity of social change. The book I would like for you to buy is this book by Mickey Kaus, The End of Equality. It is a bit utopic and pretty radical in its suggestions, but does a good job of explaining how damaging the pre-reform welfare programs were to the very people they intended to help.

The preacher and the church that takes sides with such specificity on political issues or candidates (or elected officials) stand in judgment, right or wrong. When the pastor and the church speak, they speak with authority, and with authority comes great responsibility for ones actions. And while judgment isn’t necessarily evil, the possibility of evil being committed when doing it should cause one to tread very, very lightly.

Here Dean writes:

Then too I am thinking this way: once a candidate is elected, talking about him or her isn't partisan anymore. They are now everyone's president, everyone's Secretary of Defense, etc., whether you voted for this administration or not. Criticize away if your engagement with Scripture leads you to this word.

Me: I have never written nor addressed a sermon to an individual person. Criticism, if required, should be a private concern, not a public one. I don’t believe my authority from the pulpit gives me the freedom to criticize by name anyone. The instances in scripture where this is done are very, very rare and were done by widely admitted “prophets”. I’m not a prophet, I’m a pastor. And only in extremely exceptional circumstances would I admit that I should.

So, if you think Bush is about to start a genocide that will kill 6 million people, well then, bang away.

UPDATE: After Dean left a comment I reread the post and feel like I wasn't entirely fair to Dean. Here's my apology and the full quote of his comment.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Venice UMC-Sheehan Discussion Post-Mortem, Part 2

I had planned to make some final observations in response to the Rev. Tom Zeigert (pastor of Venice (CA) UMC). Tom graciously emailed (here and here) after I inquired about an event held at Venice UMC in April of this year. Before I was finished with that response, Dean Snyder (who has the coolest named Methoblog) has written and linked to these series of posts. I ended up combining my response to Tom Zeigert with a response to Dean Snyder. This had made for a VERY long post. I hope you’ll stick around and read the whole thing. (I just hope my English Comp teacher doesn’t find this blog, she’s liable to collapse in disgust and shame at having passed me in her class).

As I commented here on his blog, I agree with Dean for the most part but have a few points that I would like to quibble with him. Dean Snyder titles his post with the question: “Is Opposing War Partisan?” and opens with the statement: “Tim Sisk has raised the issue of whether opposing the War in Iraq is a partisan political activity.”

My first “quibble” is that I find the title and the first sentence to be (unintentionally) unfair to me and my series of posts. The title of the post comes pretty close to a “loaded question” in that it is a question with a disputed supposition. I didn’t make the claim that opposing war is a partisan activity, nor did I make the claim that opposing the War in Iraq is a partisan political activity. I did, however, over the course of these postings make essentially three points regarding the Venice UMC-Sheehan Event:

1. There should be a disconnect between partisan, political activity and the activity of the church.

2. The Venice UMC April 2005 event was a partisan, political activity (for specific reasons which I’ll reiterate below.)

3. There was no condemnation or pastoral response that recognized the absence of the language of love in Sheehan’s remarks (the only speech at the event that I have found posted online).

The reason this is bothersome for me is that I intentionally didn’t say what Dean suggests I said. I wrote to Tom Zeigert (posted here):

As I mentioned in my email to you and the post of my blog, my interest isn't to debate the issue of the Iraq war. Perhaps part of our struggles in becoming faithful disciples might involve in doing such a thing, but I'm choosing not to do that at this time or in this forum. I think we can agree, though, that war is always less than God's perfect will.
I did conclude that their event was partisan political activity:
I think one could defend a speaker list of people opposed to war in general. A speaker list that only includes those who are opposed to the Iraq war is troublesome. (What can be the harm in hearing from people who support the war?) A speaker list that includes people who not only oppose the war but who have very publicly expressed anti-Bush sentiment is absolutely indefensible and tendentious.
Admittedly my writing style is muddy (I’m more of an oral communicator) and working to improve my writing is one of the reasons I started blogging. My intention was to make a rhetorical point. A speaker list of people opposed to war in general would be defensible in that it is well within accepted and widely agreeable Christian thinking. A speaker list that only includes those opposed to a particular war would be troublesome (but not partisan and political) in that it limits a full and free expression of ideas, which is why I asked parenthetically, “What can be the harm in hearing from people who support the war”. I had in mind people who find the casus belli of that war to be just as well as the conduct of that war. (I’ll address Dean’s point that not all viewpoints are equal in the church below. ) It is the next sentence where I reveal the tipping point, “A speaker list of those who not only oppose the war but have very publicly expressed anti-Bush sentiment is absolutely indefensible and tendentious.” Here the language of “only” (i.e. exclusively), “those” (i.e. plural), and “publicly expressed anti-Bush sentiment” (anti-Bush) are particularly important to my point.

I can imagine a scenario where Sheehan is invited to speak at the church, say, next month. I might expect sharp language from her (hopefully not of the sort she used in the April 19 event). Even if she were strongly anti-Bush, I wouldn’t say that the church hosting her was guilty of partisan, political activity. This is, after all, one person’s speech. In the Venice UMC event, a panel of speakers were anti-Bush. The plurality of speakers anti-Bush is one of the tipping points that makes this for me a partisan, political speech.

I would add that Dean Snyder is welcome to come to my church at any time and speak against war in general and against the Iraq War, specifically. Why? There is no history of partisan, political activity in his speeches (unless you have some confessing you want to do Dean *wink*). Anyone that hears him speak or knows that he will be speaking, knows that Dean will be speaking from a faith informed by his understanding of the Bible, Church teachings, experience, and reason. He is not compromised as a partisan, political speaker. No mistaken assumption could be made that hosting him was tacitly or explicitly advocating a political view.

But a conference (or event) featuring the speaker list described above—well that’s a horse of a different color—partisan, political activity.

Second quibble: Snyder writes: “Note that both viewpoints—for and against a war—are not equal within the church… Our bias is against war and against every particular war, even when some may conclude that a particular war is a necessary evil.”. He does this appealing to the Social Principles. I don’t think the Social Principles are as unambiguous with respect to war as Snyder would assert, I think they allow for a just war theology (and I would add that something that is just can’t be evil). I really do think my characterization of war in my first letter to Zeigert captures our teaching a bit more accurately, that is, war is always less than God’s perfect will.

But even if I’m wrong and Dean is right, then I still think his point is problematic. Consider how Dean’s reasoning would work in the following hypothetical scenario:

What if I were a member of Foundry UMC and wanted to host a symposium against same-sex marriage. Would his church favor this event (even if most of his congregation was against it), particularly since this is the teaching of the UMC? [ed--But isn't it true that the Social Principles argue for equal rights under the law for homosexuals? Me: Yeah, but if its clergy can’t preside at a homosexual marriage services, then the only way to reconcile these two views is that the United Methodist Church doesn’t recognize that marriage would fall under the equal rights category for homosexuals.] Here, it would seem, the church has taken the position against civil recognition of marriage.

I can’t speak for Dean on this, but I can imagine his church inveighing about such a conference. I can’t imagine his church believing that it needn’t be balanced in favor of presenting just such a view. And I doubt Foundry's ministers or church board being comfortable with Foundry hosting and promoting such an event.

I certainly don’t need to remind Dean the arguments that many made when the homosexual prohibitions were entered originally into the Social Principles was that the Social Principles are not binding upon the church, but are guidelines to describe the general teaching of the church, a view upheld by the Judicial Council with the exception of the homosexual prohibitions.

In my reading of both Tom Zeigert and Dean Snyder, I’ve noticed two curious omissions. Neither Zeigert nor Snyder address the point I raised that Sheehan’s speech was personal and repugnant (read uncharitable or un-loving) and could prevent the church from effectively ministering to at least three people (all of whom where named in the speech and spoken about in a hateful manner). I’ll ask again:

Could this church ever feel like home for them after such an event was organized? And if it cannot, is it truly a church of open minds, open hearts, and open doors if it is closed to these…men?
Why no condemnation of their personal and repugnant remarks Sheehan made about Bush, Cheney, and Wolfowitz? Just read the excerpted paragraphs in my original post. Sheehan clearly moved beyond questioning political positions to language that was personal and hateful. The language of love was clearly absent in her speech. Had the remarks been made in private, particularly in a pastoral care situation, then I would say, fine, it is healthy to let her vent and grieve the death of her son. But in a public forum, sponsored and advertised in the community, and part of a ministry strategy of growing disciples are these comments allowed to stand?

The second curious omission is that neither Tom Zeigert nor Dean Snyder admit to agreeing with me that partisan, political activity in the church is wrong and immoral (and certainly a violation of a church’s tax exempt status in some situations). Either they agree with me or don’t. I think Dean believes that partisan, political activity in the church is wrong. I would like for him to say that it is. Because unless Tom, Dean, and I can agree that it is wrong, then our conversation is pretty much a waste of time. I particularly worry that Tom is unwilling to fully condemn partisan political activity in the church, because if he does then the April 19 event at Venice UMC must be judged.

Further, the omission is important to me in that it is what I was attempting to argue from the beginning. The closest I get to it is this statement from Tom Zeigert:

Your evaluation that the event was partisan is well founded. We had hoped for better.
If you are organizing an event and wish to engage those who might be politically/culturally different from you and you know that there might be some reservation on their part to speak, feeling that your church may not be home for them, the burden lies with you to do everything in your power to insure that those barriers are overcome. To give up when an invitation is declined and to go on with an event that is culturally and politically homogenous only confirms the visceral reservations of the oppositional speakers.

In the South, there is still a cultural/political divide between races. I serve as the president of the local Ministerial Association (predominately white, but does have active minority membership and leadership). You better believe when we plan our ecumenical events, particularly the Community Thanksgiving Service hosted at the largest church building in the city (First Baptist Church [Southern Baptist]) that we make the highest effort to ensure that these cultural differences are put aside. (Last year, our thanksgiving service was preached by an ordained African-American female. She may not have been the first woman or the first African American to preach there, but I’m pretty sure she was the first African-American woman to preach there. Had we not been successful in attracting that participation, I’m sure our response would have been more substantive that “we hoped for better” and I guarantee we would not put the failure to engage on those that didn’t participate (Tom calls it “contempt prior to investigation”). We would have known that it is our failure that they felt unwelcome.

PS: We’ll agree to disagree about Michelle Shocked. You like her because she sings about peace (and that she rocks). I’ll stand by my point that her participation in this particular event was inappropriate in that her recent career has been viciously anti-Bush.

Candidly, I'll confess a short-coming on my part. Even if she weren’t anti-Bush, it is still a little weird to me to have her performing in the church. I’m not saying listening to her is sinful or anything, God forbid. But it just seems to be jarring to me to blend church work with her music. It's not the first time I felt like this so I know its probably a growing point for me. When I was a student at Candler School of Theology, Emory University, I was appointed to student appointment. My Teaching Parish supervisor was a great guy and I learned a lot from him. However, one day in one of our meetings, he told us he had accepted an offer from his credit card company to purchase a bloc of tickets for the Rolling Stones concert coming to Atlanta, who were touring for the first time in years. He bought a bunch of tickets so he could take his youth group to the concert. I just wasn’t sophisticated enough to think it wasn’t just a little weird that this would become a “church event”. My limitation probably informs my perspective with Michelle Shocked performing in the church.

But to the guys of U2, you can perform at my church any time you want...

I have finally arrived...

Got my first link from Dean Snyder at United Methodist, my first comment spam, and a brief mention at Instapundit, all within a seven day period.

No longer am I a mere mortal!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

WordPress and Godaddy.com

I've decided to go the next step and try to move this blog off of blogger and host my account. I don't know what I'm doing, at all. But I did some research and decided to chose WordPress. Let me me say again, I don't know what I'm doing, at all. Since I registered my domain names a while ago through Godaddy.com I decided to use them again. After having a number of problems with setting up Wordpress with the account I googled the problem and found Godaddy is lousy with Wordpress to set up.

Godaddy.com won't/can't help me (Wordpress wasn't developed by us). Right now, I'm trying to work through it, but I may just cancel the account and start somewhere else. I'll update later and let you know if I have any hair left. (At this point, I'm not unhappy with Godaddy. They have kinda tried to be helpful.)

Update: Okay, scrapped the Godaddy.com webhosting. No real complaints about the company yet (we'll see if they give back my full refund, seeing how I cancelled within 4 hours of purchasing a years worth of hosting). I'm just such a newbie at this stuff that without an auto-installer, I couldn't do it.

So, I'm hosting with Blue Hosting. Auto-install of WordPress went great (though it took me a few minutes to find out how to do it). I'm ready to begin customizing WordPress (which I'll do over the next week). In the hour I've been with Blue Hosting, I like them, but no 24 hour tech service like Godaddy.com had. So we'll see.

So new sitet in a few weeks will be at TimSisk.com. I'm supposed to be able to transfer my stuff from Blogger to WordPress with out much problem. (I'm told transferring the comments may be tough, but as my comment section isn't exactly overflowing, I'm sure that won't be a problem).

It's 1 am, I'll turn in now.

Update (2): Just got notified that Godaddy.com has given me a full refund. So I have absolutely no complaints about their service and am pleased with my interaction with them. (I hope they'll find a way to auto-install WordPress though like some other web hosting companies

Technorati Problems

Is it just me or has anyone else had problems getting search results from Technorati lately? I'm getting this message constantly:
Sorry, we couldn't complete your search because we're experiencing a high volume of requests right now. Please try again in a minute
Anyone else having this problem?

Favorite Sayings

I love "old sayings" and find they can add color to communication. Just came across a new oldie:

Old Irish Saying: "When everyone says your drunk, you better sit down." (From Hugh Hewitt)

I'm going to keep updating this post as I find more.

Yahoo Searches

I keep getting referrals to this site from Yahoo search. I finally got curious enough to check what search people were using on Yahoo to get to this blog and this is what I found:

Hurricane Katrina Flood Pics

Curiously, this blog pops up as the third item on the search. Even more curiously, it is right behind two other websites that apparently show beheading videos. I don't know what to make of that.

Why would this blog rank so high on the Yahoo search list? Especially under those search terms. (The actual post Yahoo links to doesn't have my flood pics that I posted, but rather is the Hurricane Relief Bleg I participated in with Instapundit, N. Z. Bear, Hugh Hewitt, et. al started.)

Anyone have any ideas?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Venice UMC – Sheehan Discussion Post Mortem (Part 1)

First of all, let me say, thanks to everyone who read my posts on this subject. In the short life of this blog, I recorded my highest visit total during this time period. During this time I was one of many who appeared on Instapundit’s Hurricane Relif blog-bleg, so I suspect some of the numbers where a micro-Instalanche.

To encourage discussion I tried a new tactic. I checked out every blog that showed up in Wesleyblog’s Methodist bloggers list and created a mailing list from the email addresses that showed up on their blog. I then invited everyone to come in and comment on the issue.

Several folks replied, including one guy who said he wasn't Methodist but had joined Wesley's mother church. But in the end, I got one comment (thanks, Rev. Fife!) and one link to my posts (thanks, John the Methodist (Locusts and Honey!). No link from the Methoblogdaddy, though. Hey Shane! Over here! Look at me! (Maybe if I cut my hair real short and trade my contacts for some metal rimmed glasses and post my picture on my blog so that I look like one of those “Emerging Church” guys, Shane will link to a post of mine, occasionally).

Seriously, though, I hoped this would generate a bigger discussion than this. True, its kind of a pet subject of mine. But I am growing increasingly worried by the mixture of religion and politics in churches today. As our country grows increasingly politically polarized, I’m worried that our pews will become increasingly divided. We just don’t need the extra challenge to unity for temporary political change. (A true revolution in our country, whatever your political persuasion, will come about as hearts and minds are changed, not by the election of political candidates or ratification of political ideas.) Emphatically let me say, United Methodists don’t need the extra challenge to unity. (Consider the bizarre controversy from a few years ago when the Boy Scouts Policy Ban on Homosexual Scout leaders was supported by our United Methodist Men, quite publicly, but opposed by the General Board of Church and Society, quite publicly).

Which is why I hoped for me discussion from the Methoblogosphere. True, many people’s time and attention have been involved in other things (Hurricane Katrina is a once every 50 years kind of storm). Then you have the Lake Junaluska controversy which I didn’t want to blog about. (Heretics in the church! You’re the sodomite ‘cause you like gay people! No, you’re the sodomite because you’re inhospitable!)

Yeah, I think it was provocative for Reconciling Ministries to schedule a meeting (or whatever Dean Snyder says we should call the “Hearts On Fire!” event) in the SEJ and at a United Methodist Conference Center. (After a General Conference where the business meeting was interrupted by a “peaceful protest”, broken chalice, etc., how can you be surprised at the provocation?) I appreciate Dean and read his blog nearly every day (you should too! He's a great guy!). Dean worries about language so let me point out this entry from the Reconciling Ministries Network Blog:

We are evangelical," Preston said, commenting on the hijacking of that word by conservative members of the denomination.
"Hijacking" is a much more inflammatory and pejorative word than the IRD's use of the words "rally" and "jamboree" wouldn't you agree?

I, for one, however, don’t want to open a new front in the war between progressives and conservatives by legislating who should get to use what facility. I said it here and I’ll say it again, for me, the issue isn’t homosexuality but how we can reconcile divergent views about the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in interpreting the Bible. Besides, the only way to really effect change is through changing hearts and minds, not through legislation.

But I digress.

As I reread this entry prior to posting, it sounds so negative, but I don’t mean it to be so. I’m typing most of this with a smile on my face (perhaps because the Tonight Show is on the tube behind me—I love Headlines!). But in my next post, I’ll post my last response to the Rev. Tom Ziegert email as well as a reply to the Rev. Fife’s comment.