Monday, August 12, 2019

Searching for common ground on guns


Thank God there weren’t any Mass Shootings across America this past weekend after the devastation that happened in El Paso and Dayton the previous weekend.  However according to data from the Center for Disease Control, 109 people die from gun violence in the United States every day.  Add up those numbers and a person will realize that the number of people who died this past weekend from gun violence exceeded the number of people who died in the Mass Shootings in El Paso and Dayton.

My ultimate allegiance is to Jesus Christ.  So I’m always trying to discern the mind of Christ when it comes to any issue.  I don’t think it is a hard thing to say that if Jesus Christ came into the world today he would say that the United States needs to lessen the number of people who die from gun violence.

I don’t know what the answers are to these problems.  What I do know is we have to find common ground on the issues of gun violence. I’m not going to demonize the National Rifle Association or anyone who believes in the strictest gun control.  I’m going to listen to them and try to understand their perspective.  And then I’m going to try to find common ground.

I’ve read all sorts of helpful articles in the past week about gun violence.  Jillian Peterson and James Densley wrote an article about four commonalities of mass shooters.  http://www.startribune.com/our-data-unveiled-four-commonalities-of-mass-shooters/528626052/


I even went back to listen to a sermon that Adam Hamilton gave on guns three years ago.

The issue of gun violence has reached such an epidemic that I encourage everyone to listen carefully to any suggestion. 
So if we need to have better red-flag laws, let’s investigate that;
If we need better regulation of assault weapons, let’s investigate that;
If we need better resources for mental health, let’s investigate that;
If we need better research on violence in our world including the effect of video games, let’s investigate that.

Let’s investigate everything.

And then let’s tamper down the rhetoric and work hard to find common ground. Reducing gun violence is not going to happen through Social Media posts; it won’t happen by people demonizing folks who have different views.  It will happen through prayerful discernment, careful listening, intelligent decisions, and a persistent commitment to change. 

And it will happen when all of us search for common ground.

Would you take a moment to subscribe to this blog?  Put your email in the box on the right hand side of this blog.  You'll be asked a few questions to ensure you are really a human being.  You'll then receive an email whenever a blog is posted.

Monday, July 29, 2019

A Tribute to Lew Hudson


This past Saturday, I had the privilege of leading the Memorial Service for Lew Hudson in Baxter. Lew was a very special man who made a beautiful impact in the world.  Below is an edited version of the sermon I shared.

I got to know Lew as I was growing up in Worthington, Minnesota.  He lived on 1937 Summit and my family lived on 1914 Summit.  Our families saw a lot of each other.  LuAnn and Cindy were babysitters for my sister and me.  They got thirty-five cents a hour and then got a raise to fifty cents a hour.  Becky would go to the bus stop with us, and Fred hung out with my sister.  The Hudsons went to Westminster Presbyterian Church in Worthington, so the connection between our families only grew.  

His sense of humor was always part of our family's relationships.  I remember one day after Halloween waking up and seeing a grave stone in our front yard.  Lew did it—and we laughed about it for a long time.

I loved seeing the pictures that LuAnn, Cindy, Becky, and Fred shared on Facebook after Lew passed.  So many of them showed Lew with his sense of humor.  Chasing a turkey in a t-shirt, shorts and boots.  Who does that?  Standing with in a top hat and a black suit with Fred holding a flag.  I don’t know this for sure but it wouldn’t surprise me if that was the Bicentennial.  And just sticking out his tongue.

He was born in Fort Worth, Texas in 1927.  His dad was a minister and he had two older brothers.  His dad, mom and siblings traveled around and eventually landed in eastern Iowa.  Lew went to high school in Bloomfield Iowa and attended Drake University.  And then his life changed.

One night he was walking in Des Moines and he came upon his friend, Bill.  Bill was driving a 1941 Ford Sedan.  They did what guys did in those days.  They went cruising.  They came across two women, Irma and Norma, who were at a bus stop.  They asked the two if they’d like to go for a ride.  Irma and Norma weren’t ready for that, said, "no," and got on the bus.  Lew and Bill weren’t going to be deterred that easily.  They followed the bus.  When the women got off, the two guys asked them if they wanted to go to a softball game the next night.  Irma and Norma looked at each other.  And they said, “yes.”  The next night as Lew and Bill drove to pick them up, the big question was who would go out with whom.  The two agreed that Lew would take the tall one, Irma, and Bill would take the short one, Norma.  The same conversation was going on among the girls about who would go out with whom.  Irma and Norma came to the same conclusion as Lew & Bill.  And destiny was established.  Both couples got eventually got married.  Lew and Irma were married for 69 years.

Fast forward a few years to 1960.  Lew took a job at the radio station in Worthington.  He loved being on the radio.  Eventually he became a reporter for the Worthington Daily Globe.  He joined the Presbyterian Church.  And Lew became part of the community. 

I remember the initiative that Lew established with some others in Worthington to develop a relationship with Cuero, Texas.  Worthington celebrated Turkey Day; Cuero did too.  The great gobbler gallop, a turkey race between the "fastest" turkey in each town, was born!  The trophy was the Traveling Turkey Trophy of Tumultuous Triumph.  Sounds like words that a newspaper reporter would coin.    

When I talked with Becky & Fred this past week Becky shared that for Lew family, faith, and community were most important.  Lew was able to combine faith and community in a way that honored the Presbyterian tradition.  Wherever he went Lew was involved in the community.  When he moved to Brainerd, he took the time to run for school board.  Some people in their 50’s and 60’s would be looking forward to retirement and going to the lake—especially in Brainerd.  But that wasn’t Lew.  It’s amazing to me that he served for 15 ½ years on the school board including three years as the board chair.  That is service in the Presbyterian tradition.
           
And Lew served the Presbyterian church. They were part of a group at Westminster in the late 60’s, early 70’s who saw their beloved pastor fired.  Though I was very young, I remember how painful that was for Lew, my parents, and many others.  But Lew (and others) stayed with the church despite the pain that he experienced.  He was willing to bear with people who caused him and his friends great pain.  Serving six times on the Session of the church again reveals his willingness to serve.  In most churches a term in the Presbyterian church is three years.  That is 18 years of Session meetings.  I love Session meetings, but I wouldn’t always call Session meetings the most stimulating of activity.  There was Lew—willing to serve.
           
Lew was a honorable man.  Becky shared with me that one rule he applied to life is “is it true, is it fair.”  He undoubtedly applied this rule at school board and Session meetings.  He had a deep sense of integrity and what made something right. 
           
Even with his sense of service, Lew had a sense of curiosity.  Fred shared that he played video games with him.  Can you imagine?  Most people Lew’s age look at video games as something meant for kids and something that keeps kids from doing important things like reading, spending time with family, or being in nature.  But there was Lew—with a sense of curiosity, willing to play a video game with his son.
           
He loved a good laugh.  And he was willing to share those laughs in his columns.  One year three teenagers were set to sing “We Three Kings of Orient Are” at the Christmas pageant at Westminster in Worthington.  It was a Christmas pageant, so they hadn’t practiced too much.  But there was one problem.  The three guys were were supposed to sing the song from memory.  The first guy got up.  He was a good-looking guy with a beautiful voice.  He was doing well.  But then he completely blanked on the words.  So he did what any rational person would do.  He started making up words—to “We Three Kings of Orient Are”—at a Christmas pageant.  The other two guys knew what was happening, and they couldn’t stop laughing.  The second guy got up to sing—but he couldn’t carry a tune and laughter took him away.  Then the third guy got up.  He was a more serious person.  He had complained that the group hadn’t practiced enough.  The first guy knew that this third guy was going to be upset about what had happened.  He silently prayed that this third guy would mess up.  And the third guy sang beautifully—until—his mind went blank too.  Three for three.  
           
Lew was in the audience for this “performance” of the Christmas pageant.  He loved it.  And, of course, he couldn’t help writing a column about the “three wise guys.”  Those three people will always be connected by that story.  Of course, I was one of the three.
           
God loved Lew deeply.  When the woman came to the tomb two days after the death of Jesus, they were expecting to find a dead body.  Instead as they came to the cave they found that the stone was rolled away.  They went into the cave.  The body was not there.  But an angel was.  That angel shared 17 words that can give us comfort as we think about the eternal fate of Lew.  Why do you look for the living among the dead; he is not here; he is risen.”  Jesus was raised from the dead.  Because of that resurrection we have faith that Lew is enjoying an eternal connection to God.  It’s a mystery yes.  And it’s a gift that God gave to Lew.  And a gift that God gives to all of us.  Lew opened up his gift and enjoyed a lifetime of service to his family, church & community.
           
Praise God for the resurrection of Jesus.  Praise God for the life of Lew Hudson.

Would you take a moment to subscribe to this blog?  Put your email in the box on the right hand side of this blog.  You'll be asked a few questions to ensure you are really a human being.  You'll then receive an email whenever a blog is posted

Monday, July 22, 2019

Send them Back?


I have never had someone tell me to go back to my place of birth. 

If someone did, I would hardly understand the question.  By the way I was born in Primghar, Iowa.   

But since President Trump’s failure to stop a crowd at his rally last week from shouting “send them back,”  I’ve been astonished the number of times my friends of color have said they’ve been told this phrase.   

And I’m embarrassed by my own astonishment.

For President Trump to target Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Ilhan Omar, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, and Rep. Rashida Tlaibfour, four women of color, is clearly an act of belittling a group of people based on their race.  That’s racism, and President Trump should be called out on it.

President Trump continues to target this group of four women.  He did it this morning in another tweet.  The only way he would change is when he sees it in his own self-interest.  If he thought his own political base would decrease their approval of him based on his comments, he might stop. But according to polling his approval rating among Republicans has gone up in the last week.

If the act of the crowd at President Trump’s rally wasn’t so sad it would be comical.  To actually be sent back, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would go to the Bronx; Rep. Ayanna Pressley would go to Cincinnati,, Rep. Rashida Tlaibfour would go to Detroit, and Rep. Ilhan Omar would go to Somalia.  And if the entire Congress was sent back to their place of birth five Senators and twenty-two other Representatives in addition to Rep. Ilhan Omar would go to a foreign country.  As I said above, if I went back I would go to Primghar, Iowa.

But at the baiting of President Trump the crowd didn’t ask these other people from Congress to go back to their home countries and didn’t ask anyone who was white to go back to their home countries.

The conduct of the crowd was chilling and frightening. President Trump originally said he disagreed with the chant—even though he let it go for thirteen seconds—and then he even backtracked on that statement.

Let’s be clear.  Targeting a group of people based on race is racism; targeting a group of people based on their place of birth is xenophobia. Both racism and xenophobia have no place in our culture.  They are both sins.  Every person who is human is susceptible to each. 

I’m actually less interested in calling out racism--though it has to be done--than in developing friendships with people who have a different skin color than me and people who were born in a different country than me.  I’m also committed to leading a congregation made up of many races and nationalities. 

This Sunday at Chain of Lakes Church I’ll wrap up a summer sermon series on friendship.  I'm taking the themes of friendship in the Toy Story movies, relating them to Scripture and then asking the question of what can be learned about growing in friendship.  I’ll challenge everyone present to develop friendships with people who have a different skin color and with people from a different country of birth.  I’m not na├»ve enough to think that these two acts can end racism, but these friendships can be an anchor for understanding in these divisive times.  

All of us need this anchor of understanding.  Especially when race is again being used to divide our country.

Would you take a moment to subscribe to this blog?  Put your email in the box on the right hand side of this blog.  You'll be asked a few questions to ensure you are really a human being.  You'll then receive an email whenever a blog is posted

Monday, July 8, 2019

I can still eat a rabbit and be a religious leader, right? Thoughts on kicking a church out over gay marriage


I spent last week traveling to Glacier National Park with my family, so didn’t have the opportunity to share my thoughts on the recent decision by the Evangelical Covenant Church  to kick out First Covenant Church in Minneapolis from the denomination and to revoke Rev. Dan Collison’s, pastor of the church, ordination in the denomination for celebrating a gay wedding in the church building. 

I hesitate to even write about another denomination's issues, but I identify myself as a pastor in the one church--one church with many denominations. So I can't help share my views as what happens in a congregation in another denomination matters to me. 

This action attracted plenty of attention as two articles in the Star Tribune each garnered almost 300 comments on the newspaper’s web site.  Those articles and comments can be found here: http://www.startribune.com/minnesota-pastor-faces-unprecedented-defrocking-because-of-lgbt-stance/511808592/   http://www.startribune.com/minneapolis-pastor-and-first-covenant-church-evicted-over-lgbt-stance/511979272/

A letter written by four leaders of the Evangelical Covenant Church about the decision can be found on the denomination’s web site: https://covchurch.org/news/letter-from-the-covenant-regarding-the-decisions-made-at-the-annual-meeting/

I’ve written about my beliefs about gay marriage in other parts of this blog. For those who don’t want to search through the blog, it’s worth knowing that the first wedding celebrated at Chain of Lakes was a marriage I officiated between two men—Chris Audet and Richard Garcia.

However I don’t intend to make the case in this particular blog about gay marriage. Instead I want to share my dismay that a denomination (in this case the Evangelical Covenant Church) would kick out a local congregation and revoke the ordination of a pastor over the issue of gay marriage.  To me this is an example of the excess of Subscriptionism. 

Subscriptionism—"what’s that?” you might ask.  Subscriptionism is a view that a person must subscribe to a certain set of beliefs in order to be part of a faith community or a denomination.  

In the 18th century American Presbyterians went through a rigorous debate about Subscriptionism. The history is worth knowing. These two web sites share a preliminary introduction to that history. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Dickinson_(New_Jersey) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adopting_Act_of_1729

Put briefly, in the early 18th century Presbyterian pastors were required to subscribe to the Westminster Confession of Faith.  Jonathan Dickinson (who later became President of Princeton) argued that this put the Westminster Confession of Faith at the same level of Scripture. He helped pass the Adapting Act of 1729 which stated that candidates for ministry had to subscribe to the Westminster standards but could declare a scruple (a modern-day description of a scruple is a dissent) to the standards.  The governing body could then decide if the scruple was allowed.

Beliefs about God matter; theology matters; humans are always going to disagree about theological beliefs.

For me an individual’s or community’s belief about gay marriage doesn’t rise to the level of whether a person or a community of people can be part of a congregation or a denomination.

As many people in the comment section in response to the Star Tribune's stories noted, the Bible can be used to affirm almost any viewpoint. I’m reading through the Bible this year using Eugene Peterson’s Message translation.  This morning I read Deuteronomy 13-18.  In these chapters I read about stoning prophets who encourage people to follow other gods; I read instructions about not eating camels, rabbits, badgers or animals with a cloven hoof; I read about how financial debts should be canceled every seven years; I read about tithing; I read about principles that leaders need to follow when they judge people.  To the best of my knowledge none of these issues are splitting apart a denomination.  Yet there they are in the Bible.  I find these six chapters of Deuteronomy interesting, a bit bizarre, but they don’t diminish my own love for the Bible and what it teaches me as a follower of Jesus Christ.  Perhaps most importantly anyone can disagree about these issues and be leaders in a faith community. 

To the best of my knowledge no one’s ordination has been revoked for eating a rabbit.

For me the teachings of the Bible become authoritative when they are consistent with the life, death, resurrection and teachings of Jesus.

If Jesus magically walked into my house, I would bow down and worship him.  I would encourage other people to worship with me.  I highly doubt that he would refuse our worship based on our views of gay marriage.  I think some of the questions he might ask me are “Do you love me? Do you believe in me? Will you follow me?  Will you encourage others to love me and to love their neighbors as they love themselves? Will you teach others to believe in and follow me?”

At Chain of Lakes Church a person becomes a part of our congregation (we use the language of disciples and not the traditional language of members) by affirming that Jesus is Lord and Savior.  A person becomes an Elder or Deacon in the church by affirming nine constitutional questions.  The list of the questions can be found here: http://www.highlandpres.org/publications/OfficerInstallation.pdf. 

A person can believe in or be opposed to gay marriage and be part of Chain of Lakes Church.   We find our unity in saying that Jesus is Lord and Savior.  The strength of this unity is more important than other theological differences. 

My hope for the church universal is that we can continue to find strength in what unifies us and not be divided by our differences. 

I’m saddened by the actions of the Evangelical Covenant Church as I believe their action has made theological belief more important than the teachings of Jesus.

Would you take a moment to subscribe to this blog?  Put your email in the box on the right hand side of this blog.  You'll be asked a few questions to ensure you are really a human being.  You'll then receive an email whenever a blog is posted

Monday, June 17, 2019

Celebrating our faith story of being a two-church family


This past weekend, Amy, Hannah and I have reveled in the celebration we enjoyed at Hannah’s high-school graduation party.  As I shared on my own Facebook page, our hearts were full of love as we witnessed the support of hundreds of people for Hannah.  Pictures of the party can be seen on my Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/hmoorepaul

This blog is more than a thank-you to everyone who came to the party. It’s a story of how faith has played a role in our family.  Amy, Hannah and I couldn’t have enjoyed such a wonderful experience this past Friday night without the support of adults in the Catholic congregations and Presbyterian congregations where we've served.    

When Amy & I met 21 years ago, our faith was one part of our relationship that connected us.  As we got to know each other we would talk for long periods of time about God and the church and the role that faith played in our lives.  Except we had an issue.  Amy was Catholic who attended Pax Christi Catholic Church in Rochester; I was a Presbyterian pastor who served Community Presbyterian Church in Plainview.  I wasn’t going to change professions, and Amy had no interest in changing her religious affiliation.  As we dated and then got married, we decided to become a two-church family.  I would attend Mass on Saturday afternoons and Amy would attend worship at the Presbyterian church I served.  This arrangement continued when our family moved to the north Metro.  I participate in St. Joseph’s of the Lake Catholic Church in Lino Lakes and Amy participates in Chain of Lakes Church.

When we started our two-church participation we each agreed that our religious participation had to be voluntary.  I couldn’t manipulate Amy into attending the Presbyterian church; she couldn’t do the same to me as I attended the Catholic church. 

This voluntary agreement has always worked.  Each of us sees the church as one body made up of different parts.  I’ve often used the metaphor of faith being a path with denominations being a car that travels on the path.  Both Amy and I are interested in the success of each car that travels on the path. 

When Hannah was born people asked Amy & I where Hannah would attend church.  We shared that she would follow our lead.  Hannah would attend two churches.  And she has.  Just like us, Hannah has gone to Mass on Saturday evenings and then worship at a Presbyterian church on Sunday mornings.  

Amy & I were blessed that important dates in her faith were moments of unity and not division.  The local Catholic priest in Plainview officiated her baptism during a worship service at the Community Presbyterian church in Plainview.  Hannah received first Communion at the Catholic church.  She was confirmed at both the Catholic church and the Presbyterian church.

People will sometimes ask, “Is Hannah a Catholic or Presbyterian? She’s a Christian who travels in the Presbyterian car and the Catholic car.  Has she been confused by the different teachings of the church?  No.  In reality there is more there is more that is similar to Catholics and Presbyterians than that is different.  Has Hannah ever resisted participating in two churches?  Fortunately not.  Amy & I established the ground rules early that going to church is part of our family.  On a weekend our normal routine is to attend church at two different congregations.  This routine is so ingrained in our family's life that it would seem odd to change.    

What has made all of this church participation so beautiful is Hannah has been surrounded by adults her entire life who are interested in her.   Hannah learned at an early age that she could trust adults.  Adults were interested in her; they wanted to know what she was doing; they cared about what happened in her life; they had no “agenda” besides her own well-being.

One of the best reasons for parents to encourage their kids to participate in a local church is the interaction kids will have with adults.  In almost every faith community—and sure there are faith communities that are not healthy and where adults have acted in in inappropriate and unlawful ways—adults will take a healthy interest in youth.  Adults will build relationships with youth that will make a lasting impression. 

Our family got to celebrate these relationships this past Friday night at Hannah’s graduation party.  Some adults drove hundreds of miles to celebrate this milestone on her journey.  For this Amy and I are grateful. 

Amy & I have a daughter who has been raised by a village.  Hannah has received something in these congregations that she couldn’t have received in any other place.  She has received faith-filled, healthy interest from many adults in the Catholic church and the Presbyterian church.  This experience of healthy relationships is one of the best reasons for any adult to insist that their children participate in a congregation. 

Would you take a moment to subscribe to this blog?  Put your email in the box on the right hand side of this blog.  You'll be asked a few questions to ensure you are really a human being.  You'll then receive an email whenever a blog is posted

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

A letter to our daughter, Hannah, on her graduation day


June 4, 2019

Dear Hannah,
Today you’re walking across the stage, most likely in the gym at Blaine High School, to receive a diploma for graduating from High School.  Congratulations!  No one is surprised that this day has come for you, but it’s still worth pausing to reflect about the journey that you’ve taken for the last 13 years.  Ever since the world discovered that you were going to be born, our family life has been public.  Writing this public letter of congratulations seems consistent with our family's experiences.   

We’re celebrating your accomplishments today, but the celebration is much more than just yours.  Your mom and I are grateful that you could receive a public education.  And we don’t take that for granted.  We never had to pay for you to go to any class that you’ve taken, whether it was in the Anoka-Hennepin School District or at Anoka Ramsey Community College.  You come from a family of public-school teachers, so we have a special appreciation for all the teachers from Gage Elementary, Johnsville Elementary, Roosevelt Middle School, and Blaine High School.  We also give thanks for the bus drivers, the aides, the counselors, the administrators, the school board members, the janitors, the coaches, and many others who invested in you so that you could walk across the stage tonight at Blaine High School.  All of them deserve credit for your accomplishments.

I clearly remember your very first day of school.  You were up early; we took pictures; I can still see the pig tails in your red hair.  You were attending morning Kindergarten.  You took the bus so your mom I walked with you to the bus stop. I clearly remember the huge backpack that went from your shoulder to your waist that you carried on your back down the block of 22nd Ave NW in Rochester.  When the bus came your mom asked the bus driver if he could change the bus stop to in front of our home.  I have the video somewhere.  Your mom’s request made sense as you were the only one on the bus.  You climbed on the bus and away you went. 

Now it's thirteen years later.  Where does the time go? That day seems like "just yesterday," just like today will seem like "just yesterday" at future important moments of your journey. 

Perhaps you can ask each person from our family who will celebrate with you today their "just yesterday" stories from their high school graduation.  I remember thirty-seven years ago on June 6th walking across a stage inside a gym at Worthington HIgh School.  I remember the bright red graduation robes.  Later that that day a small tornado swirled near Worthington.  My graduation party was at our home that afternoon.  I don’t remember much of what the commencement speaker said, but I remember standing in line and hearing someone say that our class would never be in the same place again.  And that was the truth.  Take a moment tonight to remember that truth for your class.  This will be the last time that your class of approximately seven hundred will all be together. 

As you walk across the stage tonight, you won’t carry a backpack of supplies.  Instead you’ll carry a cache of stories.  I remember that on the first day of each grade your mom would take a picture in front of the same chalkboard.  Those pictures will be displayed at your graduation party.  I remember the many school conferences where teachers would share how you were doing.  I remember when you stopped taking the bus to Blaine High School.  Two or three days a week I would drive you to school. I remember sleeping in a box with you nearby on the tennis courts of Blaine High School to highlight youth homelessness.  I remember the tennis matches and basketball games and track meets and the stories you told about your golf meets.  I remember the speech tournaments and HOSA parties and band concerts.  You’ll carry these stories and many more when you receive a diploma tonight.
           
Next year you’re going to Hamline.  And it wouldn’t surprise anyone if you receive more schooling after that.  Today—celebrate the present.  Your mom and I give thanks for all that you’ve received over this thirteen-year journey.  We love you and are so proud of you.  Congratulations!

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Kicking St. Thomas out of the MIAC--the wrong decision



Yesterday the MIAC (Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) announced in a statement that St. Thomas is being “involuntarily removed” from membership in the conference.  The MIAC web site shared a link to the statement.  It was only ninety-four words. The statement included a link to a one-page sheet of supplemental information. 

I wrote about the issue of kicking St. Thomas out of the MIAC in a blog on April 8th.  In that blog I shared my own experience of losing to St. Thomas as a Carleton football player.  I acknowledged the excellence of the athletic program of St. Thomas and shared that it is important for athletes to believe they have a chance to win when they enter athletic competition.   I concluded by saying that if schools felt that St. Thomas had become too good in athletics that these schools should form their own conference.

I am against this decision by the MIAC Presidents because I believe that excellence should be rewarded and not punished.    

I'm surprised by the secrecy that surrounded this decision.  In the Star Tribune’s reporting on the story, it was acknowledged that the process among the Presidents of the MIAC to kick St. Thomas out of the conference was shrouded in secrecy.  It was even reported that a formal vote was not taken, but consensus among the Presidents existed. To be so secret about an important decision that impacts thousands of people’s lives is very unfortunate. Why not take a vote, make it public, share notes from the meetings, and then have a Press Conference?

As an alum of Carleton, I’d like Steven G. Poskanzer, President of Carleton, to write a detailed description of why he was in favor of this move.  Even better would be if the Presidents of the MIAC or representatives from the conference would hold a news conference about the decision.

The MIAC will be a diminished conference by kicking St. Thomas out of the conference.  The message to athletic directors and coaches from this decision is that it is okay to be good—but be careful about being great.  Because greatness has been punished.

Carleton has an outstanding academic reputation.  All of the metrics that measure academic excellence affirm this.  Carleton is a nation-wide school, but it also competes against other MIAC schools for students.  A significant number of students at Carleton come from Minnesota and choose not to attend other MIAC schools.  No one is mentioning that Carleton should leave the MIAC because of academic excellence.

Perhaps “good but not great” should be the new tagline for the MIAC.

It’s interesting that no one has ever suggested that schools should leave the conference because they endure extended seasons of losing.  Carleton has only won four games in the MIAC in the last five seasons.  I’ve heard no one say that Carleton should leave the MIAC.  (And I expect that the Tom Journell, the outstanding new football coach at Carleton will eventually lead the team to be a consistent finisher in the top half of the conference.) 

I guess in the MIAC it's okay to be bad, but it's not okay to be great.

I can’t help but think that jealousy towards the St. Thomas football program was the tipping point in the decision. 

St. Thomas never should defeat schools by the score of 97-0 as they did against St. Olaf in 2017.  I have witnessed some football games between Carleton and St. Thomas when St. Thomas ran a trick play when they were ahead by a large margin. These behaviors fueled the belief that St. Thomas enjoyed “rubbing it in” when they won.  Yesterday I talked to a local high school football coach about the decision about the MIAC.  He agreed that it was the arrogance of the St. Thomas football program that contributed to this decision.

The same criticism was made against John Gagliardi when he coached football at St. John’s. But Gagliardi retired; Glen Caruso, the coach of St. Thomas, will eventually retire or move on.  These trends don’t last.

I also remember that ten years ago Carleton almost won the MIAC in football.  Trends don’t last. 

Kicking St. Thomas out of the MIAC is the wrong decision.  Sharing only a ninety-four word statement along with a one-page sheet of information about the decision is also wrong.  The decision seems petty and done by a group of people who don’t want to be questioned by it.