Monthly Archives: April 2009

With a Psalm (and a Song) in His Heart: Biblical Tales



The appeal of Scripture springs eternal, something Broadway and Hollywood have exploited for decades. Now there’s David M. Sanborn — an actor from a family of past and present Christian relief workers — who has brought his one-man musical, “King David,” to the Promise Theater, infusing the Books of Samuel with the aesthetics of both.

The idea of this family-friendly show — the book and songs are a collaboration between the good-looking, hard-working Mr. Sanborn and his mother, Ellen, who also directed it — involves Mr. Sanborn’s impersonating Hollywood actors (like Jimmy Stewart, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sean Connery) as he inhabits the figures in the life of David (including Saul, Goliath, the prophet Nathan and others).

Many of the renditions are spot-on, while others are less so. Some of the caricaturesque voices are the actor’s own creations. Helping to suggest antiquity are Elizabeth Richards’s simple but effective set and costumes.

But this is a musical, so there are songs, here set to prerecorded music and overflowing with lush arrangements, to say nothing of Mr. Sanborn’s impassioned vocals onstage. The actor, who has been touring with this production for 12 years, draws from a seemingly limitless well of feeling and makes the story wet, really wet, with emotion, especially in the musical numbers. You’ve never heard David suffer like this over the loss of his child by Bathsheba nor his anguished pleas for divine forgiveness. Except maybe in Las Vegas.

Inspirational pop can tend toward overwrought uplift, and so do the songs in “King David.” But families with a taste for this sort of thing will love it. Those seeking additional transcendence after the performance can look forward to “Judah Ben-Hur,” also starring Mr. Sanborn, which he has said he hopes to bring to Broadway in 2010.

“King David” continues through June 27 at the Promise Theater, 316 East 91st Street, Manhattan; (212) 352-3101, theatermania.com.

By Andy Webster in the New York Times

Poll: Support for Marriage Equality at All-time High


A new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows support for marriage equality among Americans at an all-time high. According to the poll, 49 percent support same-sex marriage, while 46 percent oppose it. This is the first time supporters of same-sex marriage have outnumbered opponents in an ABC/Post poll.

Some key findings:

The poll found pronounced differences by age, with 66 percent of adults under 30 supporting same-sex marriage, 48 percent of adults between ages 30 to 64 supporting it, and only 28 percent of senior citizens in favor.

Support from conservatives, who remain least likely to favor same-sex marriage, increased threefold over five years, from 10 percent in 2004 to 30 percent now.

Polarization remains strong according to party affiliation, with conservative Republicans opposing same-sex marriage most strongly, and liberal Democrats favoring it most strongly.

Among the middle, the poll shows that 54 percent of moderates and 52 percent of independents favor same-sex marriage. However, the largest single shift is evident in moderate and conservative Democrats, where 57 percent support same-sex marriage now compared to 30 percent in 2006.

Additionally, 53 percent of respondents said that same-sex marriages performed legally in another state should be recognized in their states.

The poll was conducted by telephone from April 21-24 among a random sample of 1,072 adults. It surveyed attitudes on a range of questions including same-sex marriage, illegal immigration and decriminalization of marijuana. Results have a 3-point margin of error.

By Julie Bolcer on Advocate.com

Azhar Usman, Muslim comedian

 

From World Faith News
Azhar Usman is a Chicago-born Muslim comedian, of Indian origin. A former lecturer, community activist, and lawyer, he has been performing stand-up Muslim comedy since 2001 and is often referred to as the “Ayatollah of Comedy” and “Bin Laughin.” He says that his sole goal, through comedy, is to promote better understanding of Islam and Muslims.

He is the co-founder of Allah Made Me Funny – The Official Muslim Comedy Tour, and he has performed in over a dozen countries on five continents.

Azhar and the Tour have been featured in over 100 major world media, including the following: ABC Nightline, CBS Sunday Morning, FOX News, Dayside Comedy Central, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, MSNBC Countdown with Keith Olbermann, CNBC Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, CBC The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos, Al-Jazeera International Riz Khan Show, Al-Jazeera International Frost Over the World with Sir David Frost, NPR All Things Considered, and numerous print publications. He has shared the stage with many of his favorite comedians including Dave Chappelle, Jim Gaffigan, Russell Peters, Todd Barry, and the late Mitch Hedberg.

Azhar is presently producing a concert/documentary project entitled “Allah Made Me Funny: Live in Concert” which is a Kings-of-Comedy-style concert film. Additionally, he is star and creator of “Tinku’s World,” a semi-scripted alternative web comedy show, and he is also developing a humor book project.

His parents are originally from India. He graduated from Niles West High School in Skokie, Illinois in 1993. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Minnesota Law School.

United Methodists respond to hate group report


An African-American U.S. president is bringing out the best and the worst in the nation, say United Methodists who advocate against racism.

A recent report published by the Southern Poverty Law Center states there are more suspected hate groups in the United States now than ever in recorded history. The annual survey revealed 926 active hate groups in 2008, a 4 percent increase from the year before and a 54 percent increase since 2000, when there were 602 such groups.

“Sadly, it does not surprise me,” said the Rev. Andy Oren, a Milwaukee pastor, commenting on the report. “While the election of President Obama has been hailed by many … it has fueled the flames of racism within many as well.”

The Rev. Taka Ishii, a Japanese-American pastor of Golden Hill United Methodist Church in Bridgeport, Conn., sees a reactionary fear of the unknown at work among many who join hate groups. “We see this African-American president in the media every day, and although a majority of us celebrate his election, some are afraid of his presidential power and believe something awful might happen to them. It is fear of the unknown because he is not white.”

In addition to the first African-American president, two other key factors seen as contributing to a growing number of hate groups are the failing U.S. economy and vocal opposition to the growing presence of undocumented immigrants, most of whom are Hispanic/Latino. The immigration controversy has been an ongoing source of hate-group recruitment, but the election outcome and the worsening economy, including fear over loss of jobs and homes, bolstered those numbers in 2008, some analysts said.

Uncertain times

“This is a time of extreme anxiety for many,” said the Rev. Jerry DeVine, a West Michigan Annual Conference superintendent. “In such times people often look for quick blame and easy answers rather than working at creating a community of new alternatives. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. long ago contended that economics is a core part of systemic racism, and thus we can see a linkage to racist groups during unsettling and uncertain economic times.”

Dee Weaver, of Dallas, Texas, sees a backlash against President Obama, immigrants and the economy in the rise of hate groups.

“There is a racial component to the immigration issue. I believe it; I have lived it,” said Weaver, who is Mexican American and a member of the North Texas Conference. She feels that “misinformation and lack of truth” about immigrants and the economy contribute to widespread ignorance and hatred. She also fears for, and prays for, Obama’s safety from racists who would seek to harm him.

“Our society is getting better at covering racism. Today we call it everything except racism,” said the Rev. Bescye P. Burnett, a local pastor who chairs the Minnesota Conference Commission on Religion and Race. “Since we are not true to ourselves as a nation in regards to being inclusive, we keep the same hatreds in our hearts. Since we fail to get serious about who is our neighbor, we tend to treat others as strangers.”

Signs of hope

The Rev. Sharon White, director of advocacy ministries in the Indiana Conference, suggests that even if hate groups are growing, the number of groups working for racial equality and reconciliation might be growing as well—another research project worth undertaking perhaps.

“I do think things are getting better simply because of the greater number of young people who do not harbor the same attitudes as some of their parents and many of their grandparents and great grandparents,” said Curtis DeVance, who chairs the Iowa Conference Commission on Religion and Race. Questioning if overall membership in hate groups has actually increased, he reports that the Ku Klux Klan and other groups “are alive and well here in Iowa, but they are having little or no impact so far.

“I think the real issue is how long will the silent majority remain silent?” asked DeVance. “What can we do to provoke more of a response by that silent majority?”

The Rev. Greg Johnson, of York, Pa., believes things are getting both better and worse.

“There are inroads among many of us who are building bridges and being in true committed relationships across national, ethnic, cultural, social, economic and, most importantly, spiritual barriers,” he said. “But there are also those who are separating themselves from fellow human beings, and seeking to do harm that may lead to death as the final separation.”

Wisdom of love

The Rev. Eliezer Valentín-Castañón, executive for advocacy with the commission, laments the rhetoric of hate that “has created an environment of hostility and distrust perpetrated against all immigrants, not just the undocumented.

“In fact, many Latinos who have been victims of hate crimes in the U.S. have been either citizens or documented residents,” he reports. “Hate cannot distinguish between documented and undocumented, between U.S. citizens and immigrants.”

Migrant workers harvest tomatoes at a farm in Immokalee, Fla. A UMNS file photo by Scott Robertson.

Valentín-Castañón said the death of racism, asserted by some after Obama’s landslide election, has been greatly exaggerated. “This is like saying that after the Emancipation Proclamation black people were instantly made free. Or that after the passage of the 14th Amendment black Americans were treated with equality and dignity. Or that after the 1965 Civil Rights Act black, Latino, Asian and Native Americans, suddenly gained acceptance and equality.

“It is precisely when we see progress in America, especially in these movements toward equality and justice,” he explained, “that the forces of evil rise up and draw misguided new converts to their perverse cause. They traffic in fear, false pride, confusion, misdirected anger and destructive hatred. As people of faith we must be vigilant in opposing and speaking up against these activities. We must educate our people to resist the ignorance of hate and choose instead the wisdom of love.”

By John Coleman who is communications director for the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race. GCORR has launched a new blog site, where this article is featured, along with additional comments about this concern.

Holy See: Vatican and Arab League to work together to promote peace, justice in world


By FRANCES D’EMILIO, Associated Press

VATICAN CITY – The Holy See and the Arab League have agreed to work together to promote peace and justice in the world, the Vatican said Friday, after a meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and the league’s secretary-general.

In a separate meeting, Amr Moussa and the Vatican’s foreign minister, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, signed a memorandum of understanding between both sides, a Vatican statement said.

“During the cordial meetings, emphasis was placed on the importance of the agreement, which is intended to foster increased cooperation between the parties with a view to promoting peace and justice in the world. Particular importance was given to the role of intercultural and interreligious dialogue,” the Vatican statement said.

The meetings allowed for an “exchange of view on the international situation, especially in the Middle East, and on the need to find a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to the other conflicts which afflict the region,” the Holy See said.

The pope travels to the Middle East next month on a Holy Land pilgrimage. Benedict will visit Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Benedict’s envoy to Egypt, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, told Vatican Radio that besides appreciating the pope’s interest for peace and development in the region, the Arab League “takes into account also the situation of Christians in Arab countries.”

The Vatican has long shown concern for the Christian minorities in the Middle East.

As part of its interest in looking after its flock in the Holy Land, the Vatican and Israel have held periodic talks over several years to resolve long-standing differences over tax and property matters.

The Holy See and Israel said in a joint communique that a session between both sides in Jerusalem on Thursday yielded “meaningful progress” toward resolving these differences.

The latest meeting of the Bilateral Permanent Working Commission was characterized by “great cordiality” and a spirit of cooperation, the statement said.

Without describing the progress made, it said both sides want to reach agreement as soon as possible and will meet again next week at Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

Israel and the Vatican established diplomatic ties in the early 1990s, but they still must resolve the status of expropriated church property and tax exemptions.

On wider issues, tensions between both sides have sometimes marked their relations. Earlier this year, Benedict’s lifting of the excommunication of a bishop who had denied the Holocaust caused anger among Jews as well as Catholics and others worldwide. Last month, the pope made an unusual public acknowledgment of Vatican mistakes of turmoil caused by his reaching out to the renegade, ultraconservative prelate.

The Vatican has said that Benedict did not know that the British-born bishop was a Holocaust denier.

Marriage — Not Just a “Gay Rights” Issue


Ann Dilenschneider in the Huffington Post

For years I have puzzled over the curious mix of civil and religious traditions in the United States that currently require a clergyperson to serve as both an agent of the state and a representative of her/his religious tradition when presiding at a couple’s marriage.

As current “religious” marriage ceremonies are conceived, it is almost impossible to untangle the church and state. However, a careful, historical reading of most “religious” ceremonies reveals which elements are required in order to guarantee that both members of a couple are coming of their own free will to enter into the legal contract of marriage, and which elements are determined by the particular faith community.

Separating the elements of civil and religious marriage, as the French have done since 1792, might provide a way to solve the heated debate over marriage that currently exists in many states. It would also ensure the separation of church and state in this matter.

In this scenario, couples would first be married in a civil marriage ceremony. This step would guarantee a couple’s legal rights, whether the couple was an opposite-sex couple or a same-sex couple. Following the civil ceremony, should the couple choose and their tradition permit, a religious marriage ceremony could be held.

This is not just a “gay rights” issue. The separation of civil and religious ceremonies would also provide another alternative: those persons who might lose benefits if they join in civil marriage could choose to have only a religious ceremony to honor their union. Over the years, I have heard time and time again from older couples that this option would honor their marriages before God so that they would no longer be living “in sin,” yet at the same time it would protect precious benefits that they would lose if they were legally married.

Separating civil and religious marriage is an idea whose time has come in the United States — by doing so, civil rights and benefits would be preserved, and the traditions of religious communities would be respected.

Disguised as a conservative Christian, Ivy Leaguer learns fundamentals of Falwell’s university


Article by Eric Tucker of the AP, quoted in Newser.com

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Kevin Roose managed to blend in during his single semester at Liberty University, attending lectures on the myth of evolution and the sin of homosexuality, and joining fellow students on a mission trip to evangelize partyers on spring break.

Roose had transferred to the Virginia campus from Brown University in Providence, a famously liberal member of the Ivy League. His Liberty classmates knew about the switch, but he kept something more important hidden: He planned to write a book about his experience at the school founded by fundamentalist preacher Jerry Falwell.

Each conversation about salvation or hand-wringing debate about premarital sex was unwitting fodder for Roose’s recently published book: “The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University.”

“As a responsible American citizen, I couldn’t just ignore the fact that there are a lot of Christian college students out there,” said Roose, 21, now a Brown senior. “If I wanted my education to be well-rounded, I had to branch out and include these people that I just really had no exposure to.”

Formed in 1971, Liberty now enrolls more than 11,000 residential students, along with thousands more who study through Liberty’s distance-learning programs. The university teaches creationism and that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, while pledging “a strong commitment to political conservatism” on campus and a “total rejection of socialism.”

Roose’s parents, liberal Quakers who once worked for Ralph Nader, were nervous about their son being exposed to Falwell’s views. Still, Roose transferred to Liberty for the spring 2007 semester.

He was determined to not mock the school, thinking it would be too easy — and unfair. He aimed to immerse himself in the culture, examine what conservative Christians believe and see if he could find some common ground. He had less weighty questions too: How did they spend Friday nights? Did they use Facebook? Did they go on dates? Did they watch “Gossip Girl?”

It wasn’t an easy transition. Premarital sex is an obvious no-no at Liberty. So are smoking and drinking. Cursing is also banned, so he prepared by reading the Christian self-help book, “30 Days to Taming Your Tongue.”

He lined up a publisher — Grand Central Publishing — and arrived at the Lynchburg campus prepared for “hostile ideologues who spent all their time plotting abortion clinic protests and sewing Hillary Clinton voodoo dolls.”

Instead, he found that “not only are they not that, but they’re rigorously normal.”

He met students who use Bible class to score dates, apply to top law schools and fret about their futures, and who enjoy gossip, hip-hop and R-rated movies — albeit in a locked dorm room.

A roommate he depicts as aggressively anti-gay — all names are changed in the book — is an outcast on the hall, not a role model.

Yet, some students also grilled him about his relationship with Jesus and condemned non-believers to hell.

After a gunman at Virginia Tech killed 32 people in April 2007, a Liberty student said the deaths paled next to the millions of abortions worldwide — a comment Roose says infuriated him.

Roose researched the school by joining as many activites as possible. He accompanied classmates on a spring break missionary trip to Daytona Beach. He visited a campus support group for chronic masturbators, where students were taught to curb impure thoughts. And he joined the choir at Falwell’s Thomas Road Baptist Church.

Roose scored an interview with the preacher for the school newspaper, right before Falwell died in May of that year. Roose decided against confronting him over his views on liberals, gays and other hot-button topics, and instead learned about the man himself, discovering among other things that the pastor loved diet peach Snapple and the TV show “24.”

Roose would duck away to the bathroom to scribble down anecdotes or record them during lectures. He never blew his cover, even ending a blossoming romantic relationship rather than come clean. He revealed the truth on a return trip to campus. He grappled with guilt during the entire project, but said he ultimately found forgiveness from students for his deception.

“If he told me he was writing an expose or maybe if the book turned out to be what I considered unfair, then I might have been more troubled,” said Brian Colas, a former Liberty student body president who befriended Roose.

The university administration has been less receptive. Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. said in a statement that Roose had a “distorted view” of Liberty before he arrived and gave an incomplete portrait of the school.

“We appreciate Kevin’s generally positive tone toward LU but he admittedly comes from a culture that has very little tolerance for conservative Christianity and even less understanding of it,” Falwell said.

Roose said his Liberty experience transformed him in surprising ways.

When he first returned to Brown, he’d be shocked by the sight of a gay couple holding hands — then be shocked at his own reaction. He remains stridently opposed to Falwell’s worldview, but he also came to understand Falwell’s appeal.

Once ambivalent about faith, Roose now prays to God regularly — for his own well-being and on behalf of others. He said he owns several translations of the Bible and has recently been rereading meditations from the letters of John on using love and compassion to solve cultural conflicts.

He’s even considering joining a church.

Wedding Day in Iowa


A little over three weeks after the Iowa supreme court’s unanimous decision to legalize same-sex marriage, gay and lesbian couples queued up on Monday morning at the Polk County recorder’s office in Des Moines to embrace marriage equality.

Because of a furlough day in the Hawkeye State, Monday was the first day marriage licenses became available to same-sex couples. Sarah Kennedy, a liaison from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, was on hand at the recorder’s office as about 50 couples waited in line to obtain their marriage licenses. Couples began showing up at about 6 a.m., with the recorder’s office set to open its doors at 8 a.m.

“It was cold,” Kennedy says. “But it didn’t rain.”

Read the article at advocate.com and see wedding pictures.

Reinterpreting Eve, by Tabby Biddle in the Huffington Post


Not too far in the past, if a woman was assertive, demanding and purposeful, she was considered a controlling bitch. On the other hand, if a woman complained about her lack of opportunity and played victim, she was considered an annoying whiner. Today, many women are looking to each other for clues as to what it truly means to be a woman.

One of the great perks of being a woman is sharing intimately with other women. I have found over and over, no matter if I am talking with a CEO, an accomplished writer, a five star mom, a longtime healer, a talented artist, … that no matter what their successes, women feel a peculiar sense of self-doubt and inferiority. I have for a long time wondered what this is about.

As someone who studies spirituality and religion, I decided to reflect on our spiritual culture to seek some answers. When focusing on this, I saw that part of the issue could be the many thousands of years we’ve been living in a patriarchal spiritual, social and cultural system. This isn’t a criticism of men by any means, but a pointing out and curiosity about how that system has affected us, both as women and men, from the inside out.

In our culture our greatest spiritual role model, God, is a “he” in imagery and language. “He” is the one we are to please, emulate and be judged by. He is the one we pray to, seek counsel from and look to for solutions. If God is male in imagery and language, wouldn’t it make sense that girls and women who are not “hes” would feel a sense of inferiority, self-doubt and perhaps never feel that they are good enough? If this is the case, I wonder if women and girls deep down inside can ever truly feel worthy.

Let’s look at another part of our spiritual and cultural heritage that may also be contributing to women’s inferiority complex: The story of Adam and Eve. For many of us, we heard this story at a very young age. In my case, I was five. Whether as a child (or adult) we regard the story as myth or truly the creation story, it permeates our culture and has made its way into our unconscious systems. A review…

(Eve) was created out of man (Adam). She was then told by an Almighty man (God) not to pick a forbidden fruit (apple). She picked it (disobedience) – gave it to Adam (unsuspecting innocence) – and from then on was said to have committed the first sin. It was that simple picking (which perhaps was due to pioneering curiosity) that is said to have led to the fall of humanity from paradise and the introduction of evil into the world. Ha!

Assuming Eve as the archetype of woman, woman here is portrayed as undisciplined, disobedient, and a sinner. Looking at it this way, it’s no wonder that women have an underlying sense of blame, shame and in many cases, a fear of questioning male authority. With this story told to us at an early age, it seems like no mystery that as girls and boys we would internalize this.

When reflecting on all of this, my question became — what happened to the time when the Almighty, the Divine, our spiritual leader was in feminine form? What happened to the honoring of our Mother God, Gaia? What happened to the ancient goddess cultures?

According to Maria Gimbutas, world-renowned archeologist, matriarchal and goddess-worshipping cultures existed as far back as 6500 B.C. Aside from the questions of why and how the shift happened away from these cultures and toward our modern-day patriarchy, I think it’s important to look at how we would feel if our spiritual leader were depicted as a woman and referred to as a “she.” Would we feel any different? What is your reaction to even considering this?

I know there is a book called, “When God Was a Woman,” which I have not read yet — but have a feeling it might shed some light on the subject. I also know that some will argue that getting caught up in duality, the feminine and masculine, is not helpful. They will say that God is Absolute and holds no gender or form. My feeling is that all the talk in the world about this, before females ever get a chance to see themselves in the image of the Divine is like skipping from kindergarten to college. We’ve spent the more recent thousands of years seeing our spiritual leader in the image of a male and I think it is going to take more than saying God is Absolute to deconstruct our unconscious belief systems.

Just to make it clear I am not advocating for erasing a male God nor am I advocating for dethroning him with a female. What I am advocating for is a remembrance and honoring of a Mother God, the Divine Feminine, as his divine and uniquely different partner.

As our hierarchies of power are shaking down and interconnection and interrelatedness are shaking wide, perhaps we have an opportunity to redefine how we see ourselves in the world and how we, as women and men, can move forward together as partners creating a world in balance.

By Tabbie Biddle in the Huffington Post

Activist burnout: A pastor who now focuses on the gospel more than politics

A New York Times article explores balancing activism and pastoral ministry – or as the article suggests – a prophetic ministry vs a pastoral ministry. Here is a full reprint of the article.

BABY BOOMERS supposedly are divisive people, still locked in the political and cultural wars of the 1960s and ’70s. This, we’re told, is why Barack Obama, though technically a boomer (b. 1961), isn’t actually a boomer. He is alleged to be the next generation, a master of consensus who refuses to be bogged down in the old quagmires.

This view of boomers is outdated. It is true we’re a generation with strong opinions. Coming of age in the era of Vietnam, civil rights, feminism and gay rights, we would have had to be dead not to have strong opinions.

But to say boomers continue to promote societal division ignores a change that people go through as they age. It’s not so much that one’s politics change, it’s the need to broadcast them that does. It’s a realization that we can’t change others — not even our own children — as much as we’d hoped.

The Rev. Tim Ives, 54, a Presbyterian minister from Westchester County, has made this transition, which he describes as going from a prophetic minister to a pastoral one.

For 16 years, until 2004, he served the First Congregational Church in Chappaqua, N.Y. (One Christmas Eve, the Clintons attended his service.) Mr. Ives, who describes himself as politically liberal, loved his sermons. “This was always central to my ministry,” he said. “Telling stories gives the greatest joy.”

HE is a pacifist, and often spoke of the mistakes of Vietnam and the folly of war. “I’m very easygoing, but there are just things I believe are wrong, I believe are clearly stated in the Bible,” he said. “We must have nothing to do with violence. It was very important for me to be clear on that, to be right and not worry about people’s reactions.”

Most of his sermons weren’t political. But when they were, they had that prophetic fire. In March 2000, he used Mark 9:1-13 and the idea of righteous power and the kingdom of God to deliver an impassioned plea for gun control as the first anniversary of Columbine approached. “We have allowed, encouraged, looked the other way as we have become the most violent of societies,” he said that Sunday, adding: “If I am being too political, so be it. I cannot see an argument that can stand up to the moral responsibility we have to our children to get rid of these guns.”

“I want everyone to go home, write, e-mail, phone, snail mail your senators and Congress people,” he concluded. “Do it. Guns are about the wrong kind of power and they are killing us all. In Christ Jesus, amen.”

Occasionally, someone questioned a sermon. “I’d listen, I’d nod, I’d smile, but I’d still think they were wrong,” Mr. Ives said.

He assumed he would always be at that church, but after 9/11 things changed. He continued preaching against violence — making clear his opposition to the Afghan and Iraq wars — but now he could see his views were dividing the congregation.

“After 9/11,” said Bob Buzak, a member of First Congregational for 44 years, “people were saying: ‘We can’t just take this. We have to strike back at our enemies.’ Tim was frustrated he couldn’t get his point across. He could see he was losing contact with some of his congregation.”

Mr. Buzak, a retired music teacher, saw the strain. “To me he was quieter, more withdrawn from his usual outgoing self.”

Mr. Ives’s sermons grew shrill. One condemned the violence of Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ.” “I am so sickened by what I saw on the movie screen,” he told the congregation. “I am so sickened by what I read in the paper daily. I am so sickened by what passes for sanity these days, that I find myself very often near despair.”

He was certain he’d failed.

“I’d come to the point in my life I was no good for the church,” he recalled. “I was mad with God. Here I was taking up the fight for what I thought was a very important issue for God, and it wasn’t working out. I couldn’t understand my failure. I was so right.”

In 2004, after a run-in with a few of the trustees, he took the church by surprise and resigned. He cited the divisions he’d caused and a desire to spend more time with family — he has two children, now 10 and 13, and is married to Ann Guerra, an orthodontist. “I thought I’d never lead a church again,” he said. “I was spent.”

He began studying to become a psychotherapist.

For six months, he did not attend church. But he loves Christmas, and on a whim, during the third Sunday of Advent in 2004, he ducked into one near his home, the Presbyterian Church of Mount Kisco. “I was late,” he said. “I opened the door. Services had started. The first open pew, I sat down quickly as possible.”

And there, sitting beside him, of all people, was a trustee from his old Chappaqua church, a man he’d once exchanged bitter words with. “It could be a coincidence,” Mr. Ives said. “But I didn’t think so.” James Joyce would have called it a moment of epiphany, but to the minister it felt like God’s hand.

He believes he was being reminded that a righteous life is about more than being right. “God sat me down right next to the person he wanted me to reconcile with,” Mr. Ives said. “Life should be about trying to make room for your enemies, loving your enemies. I had missed this. I’d appreciated it academically, but I hadn’t got it spiritually.”

In the years that followed, Mr. Ives finished his studies to become a therapist and served as a fill-in pastor at several churches, before taking over as minister at the Scarborough Presbyterian Church in Scarborough, N.Y., a year ago.

When he interviewed for the position, he described in great detail the changes he’d gone through, and was selected from 75 candidates. Edwin Payne, a retired bond dealer who was a chairman of the search committee and describes himself as a conservative, said he was not concerned about Mr. Ives’s liberalism. “He’s more focused on a love for Christ,” Mr. Payne said.

While most parishioners are aware of Mr. Ives’s general views — he has mentioned he is a pacifist and has an Obama sticker on one of his cars — politics are no longer at the heart of his sermons.

“He seems to get such joy in just giving communion,” Mr. Payne said. “The way he celebrates the sacrament — it comes across to the worshipers, here’s a man who loves what he’s doing.”

Under Mr. Ives, the church has expanded the Passing of the Peace, with every member walking around the church and greeting everyone else. He has expanded the time spent praying for those in need.

“He has us pray for our troops, pray for our enemies, pray for Democrats, pray for Republicans,” Mr. Payne said.

MR. IVES said his politics haven’t changed a lick.

“I still feel the same about guns and I know I’m right,” he said. “If I thought giving that sermon would be the end of guns in this society, I’d give it again in a second. But it won’t. That sermon was more about placating my need to be right than about preaching the Gospel. It does more to defeat my case than help it.

“I’m standing up on a pulpit, no one can say a thing for those 20 minutes, what I say goes. It’s the wrong kind of power. It undermines the love. You can tell people to do the right thing or you can do the loving thing and get the same result.”

His most recent sermon was about Mary Magdalene somehow finding hope at the lowest moment in the darkest tomb.