About Joe Morris Doss

The Rev. Joe Morris Doss

The Rev. Joe Morris Doss

At some point in my ministry it came to me that I had a call to the regeneration of the church, and then I realized that God was calling the entire Christian church to this vocation. I felt no sense of pride in my own personal call, mostly discomfort. This was not the first time I was fooled about my vocation.

I grew up thinking I knew just what I was to do. I was going to be a civil rights lawyer and perhaps offer myself for elective public service. But I got surprised and found myself going from law school to seminary. Then, like most seminarians, I moved through the ordination process and into parish ministry with the motivations of serving in the healing and blessing ministry of priesthood — forming community, celebrating, preaching, teaching, counseling, and so on. It did not take long to see two things that I had to deal with that actually felt counterproductive to the work for which I thought I had been ordained.

First, there were issues of controversy that had to be faced and the pastors had to provide the leadership. In the Episcopal Church, several of the problems begging for change were presented by decisions of the church at the national level, such as lay ministry, changes in the liturgy, the role of women, and the addressing of social conflict — especially racism. For a long time I accepted the commonly expressed assumption that these were matters of change that would be accomplished and then, at last, we could get back to the “real mission” of the church as it has been expressed through the centuries, with an improved church to be sure. “The wrongs had to be set right, and then…” Read More…

The Rev. Joe Morris Doss

Who can forget the first time that they held their first-born child? My wife had been lucky enough to persevere through a rather classic Lamaze labor. As she was being moved in route down the hall from the labor room to the delivery room she sounded more like a cheerleader than a weary and swollen human animal in travail. Raising her head and waving both hands with the two-fingered victory sign, singing out to her parents, “They said I can push! I can start pushing!” They bravely and meekly waved back as the steel doors slammed shut behind us. It really wasn’t much later that the nurse handed me a bundled baby girl, about 8 1/2 pounds, eyes pinched up, nose spread across a rosy pink face, fingers long and gracefully groping, lungs heaving to adjust from sea-creature to land-lover, body bloodied from her work through a long journey — beautiful beyond my ability to take in.

I took her and cradled her in my arms as the nurse said, “Here, she’s yours.” My immediate response, in grasping a profound truth without thinking was, “Nope, she’s not mine. She doesn’t belong to anyone. This is a real person.” And my heart nearly broke with joy and with longing. Read More…

Part 3 of a 3-part series related to Christianity and politics in the U.S.

DO: Follow the dictates of your religious conscience, founded in scripture.  

DO NOT: Pretend that religion should have nothing to do with politics. 

The Rev. Joe Morris Doss

My personal story is that I came to my political posture out of the civil rights movement, and it was my faith that demanded, over against every other besetting motivation, that I had to resist the dominant message of my society. I grew up in the picturesque but racially conservative, and yes, certainly racist, area of Central Louisiana. My friends, my family, and my church in that time and region told me that the church has no business being involved in politics. The typical rationalizations were that “the business of the church is saving individual souls” and that “you can’t legislate morality.” 

For me and my generation, the civil rights movement laid such excuses aside, not only the excuse that maintained the prejudices of individual Christians but also those that would remove the voice and participation of the church in the moral issues of society and of government. This is particularly true of economic and social justice at home and in a foreign policy that respects every human being, in all parts of the world, as God’s own.  Read More…

The Didache

There is much talk about the middle class and the 1 percent in the Presidential campaign, but the word “poor” is almost completely missing from the conversation. This is happening while the portion of the population that is designated as “poor” or “living in poverty” is and has been growing by leaps and bounds for the last 40 years.  

Is there no preference for the poor? If ever a question challenged the supposition that the United States is a Christian nation, it is this one? The preference for the poor demonstrated by Jesus, carpenter of Nazareth and itinerant peasant who had no place to lay his head, stood as one of the church’s earliest and most passionate distinctions – a distinction that defined Christians against pagans and proved dramatically attractive to rich and poor alike. (The distinction defined Jews as well, but Jews did not evangelize.)  Read More…