Saturday, November 25, 2006

Jews in Iran

Jews have been in Iran since the diaspora and many have no intention of leaving. In fact, Iran has the largest number of Jews in the Middle East outside of Israel. Jews even have one representative in the Iranian Parliament.

Read the full BBC article about Jews in Iran. You may find interesting information that contradicts the opinions of many Westerners.

Related links

Friday, November 24, 2006

God's earth slow to heal

The ozone hole over the Antarctic is the largest ever.

Despite actions to reduce gasses that deplete the earth's ozone layer, scientists have discovered that the at the current rate, it will take about 60 years to heal. Of course, if countries and corporation let their worship of money overcome their worship of God and protection of God's earth it might never happen.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Give thanks

Dear Lord, our great provider,
we bow our heads in prayer
for all the ways you've blessed our lives
and for Your loving care.

We thank You for the hands
that prepared our special treat
and pray that You will bless all those
who have no food to eat.

Forgive us of our sins
and keep us close today.
And bless this food You've given us.
In Jesus' name, we pray.


[Adapted from a Thanksgiving prayer by Betty Jo Mings]

Friday, November 10, 2006

Birth of MethoBlog

Jay Vorhees has started "the methoblog - a place for United Methodist conversation". The methoblog is the new home of the MethoBlog Roll now that Shane's ministry has mushroomed and left him too little time to keep up with the that Blogroll he kept on his now retired Wesley Blog.

A cool feature of the methoblog is that it lists the "Latest UM Blogposts" from the blogs in the MethoBlog Roll. It takes about an hour or so for a new posting to appear; this new feature is a really great service. Thanks, Jay!

So if you want to keep up with the Methoblogosphere, check out this new blog service linked in the "Methodist and other blogs" section in the right column here.

Evangelicals embrace care for God's earth

Environmentalists and Evangelicals are coming together to be better stewards of God's earth.

On the other hand, the Southern Baptist Convention in June of 2006 passed a resolution denigrating environmental activism and warning that it could create divisions among evangelicals. And James Dobson has said that evangelicals should stay focused on anti-abortion actions and combatting gay marriage.

Yet a pastor af The Vineyard USA was one of 86 evangelical signers of letter urging all Christians as well as the government to combat global warming.

It was a Republican, President Nixon, who supported air and water protection, protection of endangered species, and created the Environmental Protection Agency.

A 2006 Pew Research Center survey found that 66% of white evangelicals believed there was good evidence that God's Earth was getting warmer and 32% blamed human activity for the warming.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Looking like a pastor

The "This isn't what I ordered" blog by a young Methodist pastor from Ohio talks about expectations of pastors in "More pastor expectations: Episode V" (what does a pastor look like?).

The posting addresses several issues. For example, at Annual Conferences, "There are racial minorities, there are the non-gray-haired minorities, and there are the skinny minorities. It's pretty obvious why our health care costs are skyrocketing."

Several interesting comments have been left at the post.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Episcopalians get first female bishop

Bishop K. Jefferts Schori became the first woman anywhere in the Anglican denomination to become a bishop. She is now primate of the U.S. Episcopal Church.
Seven dioceses in the U.S. have refused to accept her authority. Her call for healing and wholeness is therefor totally understandable.

Listen to Sermon Cloud

Sermon Cloud is an unusual and cool site. It stores sermons, which you can listen to online, download or listen as an MP3 type file, or download as a Podcast.
Good ways to wade in the water of Sermon Cloud is to check out the most popular sermons today, "Most amens for the week", month, or best sermons ever. Scroll to the bottom of the home page to see a category listing.
The Sermon Cloud "swicki" on the right shows which search terms (tags) are most popular on the site.
Pastors can syndicate, podcast, and publish sermons online - assuming that they are courageous and confident enough.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

1500 species have gays?

The Oslo Natural History Museum says that a recent exhibition on homosexuality in the animal kingdom counters the argument that homosexuality is "against nature". Homosexuality has been observed in over 1,500 species, the show organizers say. And the behavior has been well documented in over 500 of those.

The show also addresses some advantages of gay males of the animal kingdom raising young.

The museum hopes to de-mystify homosexuality in humans. "The more you know..."

Friday, October 27, 2006

Religion: not a bad meme

NY Times book reviewer Jim Holt writes an excellent and thoughtful review of "Beyond Belief" by Richard Dawkins. Dawkins is an atheist and attacks religion. Author Dawkins says he isn't 100 percent sure God does not exist, but he goes about his life assuming that there is no God.

"But if you think that there must be some ultimate explanation for the improbable leaping-into-existence of the harmonious, biofriendly cosmos we find ourselves in, then the God hypothesis is at least rational to adhere to, isn't it?" says reviewer Holt.

Dawkins views ideas as memes that "reproduce" by going from person to person (brain to brain). Dawkins, who coined the term meme, claims that religion memes spread because parts of our brains "misfire". Though "Good Samaritan" acts are positive, they are an abnormal accident he feels.

Holt, in his lengthy and excellent review, makes several good points about the quality of Dawkins' reasoning. He says that Dawkins fails to comprehend how hard it is to deal with philosophical questions about religion. You may find the review better reading than the book.

Friday, October 20, 2006

British Airways suspends Christian for wearing cross

An employee of British Airways who is a Coptic Christian has been suspended for refusing to remove a short necklace with a small cross. Ironically the airline allows Muslims and Sikhs, members of other religions, to wear turbans and hijabs. Sikhs may even wear the traditional iron bangle.

The Christian employee is suing. The linked article also includes comments, like a blog. The British Airways action is being blasted, even by a self-avowed "hard-line Atheist".

Though the airline has in the past been accused of trying too hard to be politically correct, this anti-Christian action seems to be the opposite of "correct," politically or in any other way. Such discrimination has no place in the workplace.

While discrimination and persecution against Christians is not uncommon, we tend to think that it doesn't happen in "the civilized world". Guess what? It does. Sometimes it is the result of misinformation by the perpetrators. Sometimes it is purely malicious. Wherever such persecution happens, we need to combat it with facts and, when necessary, legal action.

Related links

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

UMC seeks feedback on site redesign

United Methodist Communications has been redesigning the denomination's web site, Today UMComm announced that you can take a "sneak peek" at the new site as well as provide feedback.

Access the sneak peek at; click the "sneak peek" image banner link (in the center middle of the page) to preview the site.

Following the short introductory video, select one of the links to new features. After checking out a new feature, feel free to select the "Feedback" link. UMComm is actively seeking comments in order to make the final site better meet visitors' needs when the site "goes live" in January 2007.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Evangelicals fear teens may abandon the faith

A New York Times article states that Evangelicals fear losing their teenagers. A report, which has drawn some criticism as to its statistics, projects that only 4 percent of today's teenagers will be "Bible-believing Christians" as adults.

One of the suggested factors that might result in that dire future, the article says, is a "pervasive culture of cynicism about religion." Perhaps that's a logical result of some events over the past several years that relate to religion and our society's ethics:

  • Clergy molesting children.
  • Clergy found stealing from their congregation.
  • Clergy being prosecuted for multiple affairs with church members.
  • Clergy seeming to spew hateful, hurtful language from the pulpit and for broadcast by the media.
  • Clergy causing strife within a church
  • Corporate leaders thinking nothing of harming their employees' pension funds.
  • Political leaders and candidates claiming compassion but encouraging hate.
  • Church leadership "looking the other way" and violating copyright law.
  • Churches with a General Fund in the negative by over $10,000 and with leadership refusing to even acknowledge a problem.
Each of these hopefully represents a minority of the total churches, clergy, and members. But the cumulative effect of these as either news stories or information passed by word of mouth certainly colors teens' and unchurched people's perception of Christianity and organized religion.

American business ethics used to be respected and thought of as a model for European businesses. That's pretty much an "old story" now. European business was guided by the general sense of ethics within the culture, not that of religion. In the past, America was guided by the ethics of religion; we didn't have the same cultural sense of ethics that was not attached to religion. So as the number of people "strong in the faith" declines in America, we can expect more severe ethical problems in our society.

When churches, clergy, and church members are seen to act more like any other unethical institution in the land, it's no wonder that teenagers see hypocrisy and fail to identify with the church. Yes, nobody is perfect, but perhaps we Christians should try a bit harder to "clean up our act" before we blame someone else for declines in church membership.

If the projected trend turns out to be accurate, might our future culture values look more like those of ancient Corinth? Perhaps we need another Paul to help energize us, pull us together, and turn us around (that's what repenting is all about, after all).

Blogroll changes

I have removed a couple of blogs in the list of "Methodist and other blogs" (in the right column of this page) that seem to be inactive and added 10 new ones. Check them out ... experience the viewpoints. Blog authors ("bloggers") welcome good comments, which don't have to be agree with their posting. Just be polite if you add an opposing view comment.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Religion "How to"

The WikiHow web site is a series of "how to" online manuals for tons of categories. The site bills them as "manuals that anyone can write".
In addition to information akin to manuals, there are some religion-related how-to's. Here are a few to get you started ... How to:
Although the concept is great, you'll notice some anti-religion links here too. Remember that anyone at any level of expertise and knowledge can create one of these WikiHow pages. So read and respond to these using facts and reason. If you respond to ( use the "Discuss this page" link) a WikiHow, do so without resorting to "flaming" others.
If you have a great "How to", consider adding it as a WikiHow.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Hypertext commentary on Amos

The Postmodern Bible Commentary site appears to be a unique and exciting endeavor. The project's goal is a commentary site covering the whole bible, done in hypertext format. The aim is to explain the Bible in a way that a printed book cannot. The current book available is Amos, launched March 10th of this year.

The site includes Bible text, commentary, Hebrew words, and multimedia resources such as sound for word pronunciation, for example "apophthegma". You can even choose to have the text read to you in Hebrew or English!

The general page layout is in four panes -- menu, Bible text, commentary, and Hebrew word explanations.

Friday, September 29, 2006

What's a Steering Committee do?

Some confusion exists about what a church Steering committee is and what it does. Below are some hopefully helpful explanations:
  • The American Heritage Dictionary defines a Steering Committee as, "A committee that sets agendas and schedules of business, as for a legislative body or other assemblage."
  • A business planning company describes a Steering Committee as, "A cross-functional executive group that sets overall parameters and provides high-level project guidance by interaction with the project leader, milestone status review and approval of resource requirements."
  • The Government Accounting Office defines an Executive Steering committee as, "The top management team responsible for developing and sustaining the process management approach in the organization, including selecting and evaluating reengineering projects."

These all seem to clearly indicate that a Steering Committee or Executive Steering Committee does not get "down in the weeds" in regard to the organization's activities. The members of a Steering Committee don't "mess with" the committees of a church, for example. Rather, like the rudder on a ship, a Steering Committee "steers" the organization in a direction that will be of most benefit to the organization.

Thus, a Steering committee should not be an excuse to bypass the normal Administrative organization and decision-making process of the organization. A Steering Committee should concern itself with long-range, broad-brush planning actions. Sometimes a Steering Committee may be formed when the group would be better organized as a Task Force or Project Team.

Some pastors dislike "emerging church"

What's "the emerging church?" The opensource theology blog defines it as "The church as it takes shape in a post-modern, post-Christendom, post-colonial, and post-evangelical environment".

A recent posting there, "What some pastors and theologians don't like about the emerging church ", lists 13 types of complaints of these pastors and theologians. The gist of the complaints seem to imply that they are what many would refer to as fundamentalists or very conservative Christians. What's the view from the rest of Christendom?

Some related links:

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

What is "liberal theology"?

Liberal theology sometimes gets confused with liberal social positions, says Joel at the connexions blog. The post addresses comments by Beth Quick about the accusation that liberal theology is contributing to the decline of mailing churches.

He points out that even growth in the Southern Baptist Convention is stagnating. He also warns that Christianity in general is in trouble in America. He further cautions that part of the decline may be caused by unrelenting attacks on the United Methodist Church and other mainline denominations by organizations such as the Institute on Religion and Democracy and the Confessing Movement.

Joel's posting attempts to clarify the differences among "liberalism", "liberal social positions", and "liberal theology." Some people with a conservative theology can and do support liberal social positions, for example.

Monday, September 25, 2006

IRS vs. All Saints Church

Rev. Ed Bacon, All Saints Church, agrees that churches should not endorse or oppose politicians, but they should not be neutral about political issues and moral courses of action.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state." It would be mighty hard to be the conscience of the country if clergy could not speak about the country's rights and wrongs.

The IRS is examining whether sermons at the church violated laws that pertain to non-profit religious organizations. This action follows in the shadow of a prior year's uproar about a Pastor and congregation that voted out members who didn't support President Bush. The Pastor later resigned.

Read what the current fuss is all about:

Related links in this blog:

Update (10/14/2006):
The "Faith in Public Life" blog picked up part of this posting and several others in a more in-depth posting. Faith in Public Life postings usually also include videos.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Pope not infallible

There seems to be not just a hue and cry about the negative comments about Islam by Catholic Pope Benedict XVII. The FaithFul Progressive blog says that this is also the second lapse of judgement by the Pope and the second religion he has offended. The Pope also got it wrong in his Auschwitz address, the Faithful Progressive says.

Some call the "infallibility"of the Pope into question. But those who do so may misunderstand the meaning of papal infallibility. Every act of the Pope is not considered infallible, only his ex cathedra teachings. So Popes as well as Presidents can "blow it" and show lack of good judgement. "Is the Pope Infallible?" asks Daniel Enberger's article in Slate magazine. "Only when he says he is", the subhead reads.

Other comments to "Pope 'Deeply Sorry' for His Offensive Remarks" point out that the Pope's remarks, no matter how well intended, were poorly chosen and serve only to encourage the extreme religious right in their mistaken belief that Islam is more violent than Christianity.

Europe experienced religious wars, the Crusades were by Catholics, and millions have been killed in the Americas in the name of religion. The blog postings even point to morally bankrupt practices of early California missions.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Liberal theology not killing mainline churches

Elizabeth, at, is irritated at religious conservatives who claim that anyone who doesn't agree with them has "a low view of scripture." She also counters the claim that more "liberal" mainline churches are "wrong" and that an increase in relative membership by conservative Evangelical churches is somehow proof that they are "right".

She says that some people are simply attracted to what is new, flashy, easy, convenient, and socially fulfilling. "Some churches," she says, "both mainline and other, can grow for [the] wrong reasons."

Worship style mismatch?

The General Board of Discipleship's Worship area on the web has the text of an excellent speech by Hoyt Hickman, "Making the Eucharist speak middle American".

In his speech, Rev. Hickman reminds us that John and Charles Wesley were Anglican priests to the end of their lives. At that time, Anglicans were considered the opposite of Catholics in terms of liturgical formality. Today, Anglicans are considered one of the more traditional Protestant denominations.

Rev. Hickman also mentions liturgical subcultures within the United Methodist Church, including:

  • Semi-Anglican
  • Free church
  • African-American
  • Other ethnic groups
  • International cultures

He also says that contemporary worship challenges liturgical traditions. This can be a serious obstacle for a church striving to draw new members from the surrounding community. If a church leans toward traditional but the community around them prefers a more contemporary worship experience, the going will be tough.

Often, though saying they want new members, church members may resist any change to "their" church. To complicate matters, most pastors have a preferred style of worship. They may be between a rock and a hard place if their preference doesn't match that of the community they want to serve. One way to research the demographics and preferences of people in your church area is to sign up for the free membership at Link2Lead. Then check out the Percept studies' data for ZIP codes in your church's vicinity.

In the late 60's, the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren saw a crisis in worship. Official hymnals and books of worship, which had recently been changed, were already seen as out of date. There was a widespread call for more contemporary worship, focusing on contemporary music, a less formal style, and more openness to creativity.

Are we not faced with these same challenges today? Is your church and pastor prepared for change? Accepting of change? Welcoming of and not intimidated by change?

Related links:

Multitasking impedes efficiency

An October 2001 study in the "Journal of Experimental Psychology" reports that the brain takes extra time "switching gears" when we switch tasks. So Samuel Smiles was right:

"The shortest way to do many things is to do only one thing at once."

People who believe they accomplish more by multitasking may just be tricking themselves by getting the false impression of efficiency from the fact that they completed several tasks. But they probably could have completed all the tasks in a shorter period of time if they had concentrated on one at a time.

Microsoft suggests several multitasking problems. Among them:

  • Interruptions plague longer-term tasks. They hamper concentration and task progress. Users often can't determine which interruptions to handle immediately. This makes it difficult for users to maintain current task flow.
  • People often set aside tasks while waiting for something like an email to arrive or even a phone call.
  • People have trouble getting back on task after shifting their attention away.

Multitasking problems have even crept into churches. For example, one pastor had a habit of shouting over the last hymn as we closed the worship service. But paying attention to his words meant paying less attention to the words of the hymn. If a hymn is important enough to sing, it is important enough to concentrate on. We should pay more attention to the words (text message) of hymns, not less.

Even church staff members need to focus on one task at a time as much as possible. Acting against that goal are an always-open email program or email notifier, an open instant messenger (IM), Constant visitors, phone calls, etc. So help your church staff focus. Help lessen interruptions to their tasks and they'll get more done in the same amount of time.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Empower, equip, encourage

"Discipleship Journal's" article, "The power of encouragement", deals with encouraging people to come to Christ. But that article also started me thinking about empowering a congregation to carry out God's work.

A wise and well-liked pastor at a prior Methodist church told me that Methodist pastors should not be dictators in the churches to which they are assigned. Rather, they should empower, equip, and encourage the saints of the church to do God's work. Pastors who adopt that philosophy strive to leave churches with lay leadership that is better and stronger than when they arrived. That isn't likely to happen if the local "leadership" is spoon-fed tasks, seldom sees suggestions adopted, or is seldom allowed to act on their own ideas.

When pastors change at churches, congregation members and the church's leadership need to be flexible enough to allow for some changes. But Pastors also need to make allowances for a congregation that is not exactly like the one they left. A pastor in another state relates that a Candler School of Theology faculty member once said,
"There are only two things that Pastors should change the first six months they are they are at a new church -- their address and their underwear."

While that was obviously intended to be humorous, it contains wisdom. It is very helpful if pastors get to know church members, traditions, and the reasons behind practices at the new church to which they are assigned before they start suggesting changes, especially major ones.

Sometimes it seems as though Methodist pastors forget that they are only temporarily assigned to a church. The members continue; pastors change. So pastors, go easy about making dramatic changes that may prove harmful to relations with the congregation or ultimately to the Body of Christ at that church.

Working with the church's leadership will prove more beneficial to all concerned than butting heads. A church where authoritarian clergy -- no matter how good the clergy members' ideas and skills -- allow little or no participation in decisions just sets up the church for future failure when that clergy member moves to a new assignment. Church leadership needs the opportunity to actually lead, not just follow.

"Progress however, of the best kind, is comparatively slow. Great results cannot be achieved at once; and we must be satisfied to advance in life as we walk, step by step." — Samuel Smiles

How well is your church doing at preparing your leaders to continue leading after current clergy members move on? How well is your church doing at empowering, equipping, and encouraging the saints?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Whence comes disunity?

Methodist Scott McKay, writer of the "Grace Happens" blog, says that unity is not the same as no disagreements. And disunity sneaks in with pride, jealousy, resentment, ego, and a desire for control.

Though Scott, a member of the clergy, associates such problems with the church membership, these same unity challenges pertain to all people associated with a congregation, clergy included. None of us are immune to the sins of pride or arrogance (for example), though some people do better than others in staving off these diseases of the soul.

His posting ends with a reminder of the invitation to Communion ... love, repentance, and peace.

New stem cell technique raises hopes, concerns

A biotech company has found a way to get stem cells without destroying embryos. The process takes a single cell from an early stage embryo, then grows stem cells from that one cell.
Some are saying this is a breakthrough that solves the debate; others say it solves little and raises more concerns. Stem cells hold great promise for treating major diseases.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Quiz: Which Theologian are you?

The QuizFarm site has several quizzes that are religious in nature. Have you taken the "Which Theologian are you?" quiz? Just remember that this is for entertainment value. Don't go getting all up in a lather about a particular phrasing of a question or the results.

Here's another interesting quiz: Which Religion is the right one for you?

Also remember that people, imperfect people, make up these quizzes. The results depend heavily on the knowledge and quizmaking capability of the author. Just take a quiz for the experience. If it starts you thinking, so much the better.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Sanctity of human life

"The Sanctification of Human Life", an excerpt from "How Christianity Changed the World" by Dr. Alvin Schmidt, addresses the value of human in Roman and Greek times. The article speaks to many areas about the sacredness of life, including infanticide as well as abortion.

Roman society's bankrupt morals included the practice of "exposure" -- placing unwanted babies on the hills and letting "the Gods" decide their fate.

Read with a critical mind, though. The author makes some assumptions that may not be valid. One example is the assumption about translating Galatians 5:19-20 and Revelations 21:8 to imply an anti-abortion stance. The NIV Bible translation has an Evangelical bias, yet neither its study notes nor the NIV Bible Commentary mention either of these passages as relating to abortion.

So use reason with your reading. Reason is one of the four legs of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral "stool", after all.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Spiritual Atkins diet starves you

The Atkins diet shuns carbs like bread, but Jesus said he was the Bread of Life. In " Jesus and the Atkins diet", Keith McIlwain reminds us that we must partake of this excellent spiritual food or else we starve. Taste the Bread of Life. Let Jesus fill you.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Liturgical worship and the Heisenberg principle

The term "high church" and "liturgical" was once defined solely in terms of the Catholic and Anglican Churches. " Low church" was the disparaging term applied to the Anglican Church. But high church "may now be used in speaking of viewpoints within a number of denominations of Christianity in general" (Wikipedia). High church "emphasizes liturgical and theological formality. Vestments are more formal. Parts of the service are often sung or chanted, and may include incense and sanctus bells (aka 'smells and bells')." Note the word "may" — use of the term "high church" need not be limited to the most extreme cases of formality and rites.

"Protestant churches, which initially kept liturgical forms and music that were consistent with Roman liturgics, gradually saw many of the forms change over time as theology and doctrine itself changed in Western Europe." ( Protestant Liturgics)

Likewise a "liturgical" worship service was originally associated with the type done at Catholic Churches, complete with censer, lots of vestments and other accouterments, plus many rituals — a formal atmosphere. In that light the Methodist Church would be seen as non-liturgical. As culture has changed, however, the terms "high church" and "liturgical" have seen different use. Church members now use these terms to describe their worship service in relative terms.

The Heisenberg uncertainty principle applies a bit here. We can describe and discuss exactly what we currently do in worship and try to apply a label, but by the time the debate is done, the momentum of our culture can make that label suspect. We need to always consider trends in our culture when deciding where we are and where we want to go in terms of church and worship style. When I was a child I sang as a child (classical, including some in Latin). OK, I was a teenager, but you get the point. Today, that same style of music in worship seems ancient to me ... an anachronism ... out of place in time.

Our current western culture uses several different ways to label our churches and worship services:
High church <---------+---------> Low Church
    Liturgical <---------+---------> Non-liturgical
  Liturgical <---------+---------> Evangelical
  Traditional <---------+---------> Contemporary
   Very formal <---------+---------> Very informal
These are a continuum, not an either-or situation. For example, the Percept Group's area reports of people and preferences done for the United Methodist Church use a "Church style" continuum of Traditional-to-Contemporary, based on worship, music, and architecture styles.
Even using the phrase "traditional" is really a relative one. What is contemporary for a church today will become traditional for that church if used for a decade or two. Individual Protestant churches show a wide variety in use of such things that many would see as leaning toward the liturgical/high church/formal/traditional:
  • Vestments - more vestments, robes, and gowns worn means more formal.
  • Additions such as altar, formal chancel area, candles, use of acolytes, fancy goblets and plates for Communion, and the presence of an oversize Church Bible.
  • Old and Latin language terms such as Narthex, Introit, Gloria Patri, Doxology, Chancel, acolytes, and postlude.
  • Rituals.
  • Standing for the reading of the Gospel (but not the Old Testament, of course).
  • Use of the "Liturgical Psalter", as the Methodist Book of Hymns calls it.
  • Congregational singing of responses during reading of the Psalter.
  • Rigid order of worship.
Discussions about a church's style and worship service would be more productive if all concerned accepted terms as they are commonly used today, not their original usage decades ago. Using terms such as "more formal" and "less formal" to describe our church and worship style might well help newcomers and the unchurched. The relative terms "more liturgical" and "less liturgical" are better suited to discussions within a church community, but then only after discussing what that means.

Wikipedia excursions

Like taking a leisurely drive in the country on a weekend, you can tour Christian Wikipedia topics at your own pace. This free collaborative encyclopedia has an excellent organization of Christian topics. Below are some interesting excursions. Take your time enjoy the ride.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Mohammed: "Respect each other's ways of worship"

Imam Muhammad Shakoor, leader of a Dallas Muslim congregation, says that the current Israel and Hezbollah conflict reflects neither the true nature of Islam nor the prophet Mohammed.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Social Justice: Voting rights as human rights

In 1992 the U.S. ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but a recent UN report points out problems in America. The report points out that America is doing poorly in voting rights for prisoners when compared to other countries, states an article in the New York Times. In fact, it shows that we have the worst record in the free world.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Scams trick Christians into emailing lies

If you forward an email that's really a lie, you bear false witness. Christians are particularly susceptible to scams that pluck the heart strings.
  • "True" inspirational stories
  • Pleas to help sick or dying kids
  • Email petitions dealing with some aspect of religion
  • Tales of abductions

How can you avoid bearing false witness? One way is to check out such allegedly true stories at Truth Miners, a Christian site. They devote a special page to hoaxes.

Don't be duped. If you don't have first-hand knowledge about the story, check out the alleged "facts" before you spread them around.

Climate change squeezes winemakers

The increasing number of extremely hot days could reduce the area in the U.S. that's suitable for growing premium wine grapes by as much as 81 percent by the end of this century, says a National Academy of Sciences study.

Global warming will affect people's jobs and the way we live. But some are still in denial -- like those tobacco company "scientists" claimed that smoking cigarettes didn't cause lung cancer. Right!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Add Spirit to your browser

A web site named "Faith Browser" offers Firefox web browser users a free Bible Verse toolbar and free religious button for the navigation toolbar.

The Bible Verse Toolbar adds one more toolbar row, which I loathe, but if you want the verse and can tolerate the decreased vertical window space, go for it.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

View from a burqa

The head covering worn by Moslem women in some countries is the burqa. The wearer's face is hidden from view and she can only see out of small screened openings. One woman journalist shows what it looks like to see through a burqa (Christian Science Monitor).

Monday, July 10, 2006

Tech in Worship or Worshipping Tech?

An article by G. Jeffrey MacDonald today in Christian Science Monitor addresses use of technology in churches. "Backstory: Church of the higher tech ", deals with several good topics. Here are a few:
  • Does use of technology by some churches amount to idolatry?
  • A Barna Group 2000-2005 study of Protestant churches showed that the percentage using large screen projectors has jumped from 39 to 62!
  • Digital images can add emotion to the worship service and heighten the worship experience. Images can stress particular points during a hymn or sermon.
  • Technology makes young adults feel more comfortable in church.
  • Some church experience is even virtual -- virtual church, online prayers.
  • Some churches worship technology, but others are giving it the cold shoulder and may suffer as a result.
Related Barna links:

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Stewardship: High tech trash pollutes

Many people have an image of the technology industry as a "clean" one. Elizabeth Grossman, author of "High Tech Trash", says it just ain't so:
  • The tech industry dumps pollutants into our groundwater.
  • Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs) used on "regular" monitors are the most hazardous components.
  • The U.S. alone tosses out about 250 million computers each year!
ACTION: What can you, a steward of God's earth, do?
  • Re-use. Donate old computers and peripherals when possible.
  • Recycle. Some manufacturers accept returns, but they usually also charge you for shipping. That's an aggravating, but return the stuff when you can. You can already recycle printer cartridges through manufacturers and some vendor stores.
  • Change habits -- use LCD or plasma monitors, for example. As these increase in clarity and decrease in price, it's a very viable option.
  • Encourage companies to offer a recycling policy for old computers, monitors, and the like and to build the price of recycling into the item's cost.

Eyewitnesses to Christian history

A unique web site ,"Eyewitness to History" includes some events and eyewitness quotes related to Christian history. Some links:

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Other Intelligent Design theories

"Intelligent Design (ID) is only one of many 'alternatives' to Darwinian evolution", says author David Brin. His article, "The Other Intelligent Design Theories" appears in the online "Skeptic" magazine. Brin says that ID proponents claim that they must be heard in the classroom if educators were to play fair and be complete about evolution theories.

This pitch may backfire says Brin. After all, to be complete, there are several ID theories. Surely the ID proponents could not object to teaching all the alternatives:

  • Guided evolution. (A lot of scientists hold to this one.)
  • Intelligent Design of Intelligent Designers (IDOID - a Mormon view?)
  • Evolution of Intelligent Designers. (This one involves Black Holes!)
  • Cycles of Creation (let's not forget Hindu and Mayan concepts)
  • Panspermia (spaceships, anyone?)

Other possibles:

  • The Universe as a simulation
  • We have been resurrected at the Omega Point
  • ... perhaps you have a favorite?

UPDATE (7/21/06): I just had to check the original article date when I came across the Locusts and Honey blog's link to "Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity with 'Intelligent Falling' Theory". I was so sure it had to have been April 1st. But no ...

Monday, June 26, 2006

Churches: Get back to basics

Author Clark William, in The Vital Church , says that the decline of mainstream Protestant churches will not reverse until churches get back to their core values and basic mission using four principals:
  • Teaching
  • Worship
  • Community
  • Service
Of the four, I'd say that modern churches are weakest at community and service. On the other hand, some teaching may be boring or outdated and some worship may be too stiff and formal for today's relaxed, yet fast-paced society.

Our Savior preached a gospel of hope, a standard of love, and a focus on outreach to the poor and those looked down upon in society. Christ didn't "hang" with the wealthy or politicians, nor did he lust for power, as many who call themselves Christians do.

Friday, June 23, 2006

An Evangelical speaks out

Randall Balmer takes fellow evangelicals to task for abandoning evangelical ideals and emphasis. Balmer is the author of the upcoming book, Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America: An Evangelical's Lament". In general, his point is that evangelicals have lost their way.

Here are a few of his points in one essay:
  • Religious groups should not ally themselves with a political party.
  • The early followers of Jesus were counterculture -- obviously apart from the norm.
  • If you oppose abortion on religious grounds, you should also be opposed to torture and the death penalty. These are moral issues not just PR problems.
  • The bible contains 2000 references to the poor and our responsibilities to the poor.
  • The religious right seems to have allied itself with power and wealth, even adopting a so-called "prosperity gospel".
  • The leaders of the religious right have adopted a language of militarism. They viciously attack anyone that does not agree with them. (Karl Rove would be proud.)
  • The conduct of an evangelical "roll call of rogues ... makes Bill Clinton's adolescent dalliances pale by comparison".
  • Leaders of the religious right seem fearful of pluralism, but pluralism is healthy. These religious extremists seem to want enforced religion -- their type and style done their way.
  • Balmer would not make abortion illegal -- he'd make it unthinkable. That requires educating people at home and in church, not at school and not by law.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Satellites help human rights watchers

When governments or groups harm God's children, satellite views of the area can help prove the felony was committed. One example is Zimbabwe's destruction of a settlement.

While the computers to process the images costs about ten grand, support for the human rights groups using satellite imagery in increasing.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Where are cell phone manners?

Youth and even young adults seem caught up with instant communication at the expense of people around them. Recently, one guy at our church had a cell phone go off. OK, a natural "slip", you think. But it was at the communion rail. And he opened the cell phone to check it out!

People loudly talk into cell phones or seemingly into the air (headsets are getting more popular ... shades of the Cloud City security guy in Star Wars). They even interrupt talking with the sales person at a cash register to answer a call.

A USA Today article about this abysmal lack of common courtesy suggests that perhaps it's because this generation of parents have not taught their kids that good manners are important. Plus technology makes social multi-tasking easier, though comprehension may suffer.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Pope John Paul called evolution "sound"

During a recent conference, physicist Stephen Hawking reminded the audience that Pope John Paul in 1996 said that Darwin's theory of evolution was "sound" and that it was more than a hypothesis.

So ... creationists disagree with Pope John Paul, it seems.

What's your eschatology?

Eschatology ... you know ... that "end times" stuff. There are several different views of end times. Which group do you fit in? Well, don't fret if you're not sure, because the Eschatology Quiz will tell you. Answer what you believe and the results will place you amongst the spectrum of end times beliefs.

If the quiz gets your thirst up about end times, consider a bible study of the Book of Revelation. Just be prepared to keep a commentary or two handy if (when) it gets a bit bewildering.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Temporary worship

When we fixate on one style of contemporary worship, we ignore the "temporary" part of "contemporary". What's contemporary today may be "old" to the upcoming generation.

"Temporary 'contemporary' worship" at Midnight Oil Productions challenges us to adjust our thinking. Dave, one of the MO guys, points out that people don't often listen to radio stations that play hymns, let alone old hymns. Are liturgical worship services in touch with the real world today? What do average people today want in a church worship experience? Are we filling their needs?

Jesus used stories from the culture of his day and related parables to that culture. He rejected the standard old style taught in the temple. Is there a message for us today in Jesus' actions and pattern of behavior? Dave says we should have a worship experience where our members would feel very comfortable inviting a neighbor of about any type.

As one of the 19 comments about the posting states, there's a missional aspect to worship.

Stewardship: Poverty and Conservation

What are Christians to do about conserving God's world in an area where people live in poverty? As Christians, we are called to help those in need. At the same time we are to be good stewards of God's earth. These two actions need not conflict, though.

The latest Nature Conservancy magazine addresses this thorny problem in " The Poverty/Conservation Equation ". The issue includes related articles, too, including "Does Conservation Matter to the Poor?" and "Is Poverty Relevant to Conservation".

Conserving God's world ... helping the poor ... are you part of the solution or part of the problem?

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Stewardship: What is 'Green Energy"?

Both red and blue politicians go green on energy, says the American Council on Renewable Energy. Even power companies are beginning to offer customers the choice to pay a bit extra per month for blocks of "Green Energy", also called " renewable energy". Georgia Power's pages on Green Energy describe what Green Energy is and how to sign up.

Related Green Energy links

Supplemental reading: Care of God's Earth

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Origins of churches

Have you ever wondered how various denominations and churches got started and what they are all about? Wikipedia is one of several online source to satisfy your curiosity. This online encyclopedia with group contributions also has lots of related links in each article.

Here are few links to get you started...

Monday, June 05, 2006

Church nursery tips

Chidren's Ministry Magazine has a special section on the church nursery. It includes sample policies as well as articles on safety.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Mid-life crisis a good thing?

God does not intend for our lives to be humdrum, monotonous, same-old same-old, says Rev. Gregory Lee. So, he ponders, perhaps midlife crises are not such a bad thing after all if they get us to re-examine our lives.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Making church "relevant"

Midnight Oil Productiuons, which appears to be affiliated with Cokesbury, has a great article and excellent discussion (blog style) on being cultural and counter-cultural at the same time .

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

You're watching too much TV if...

You're watching too much TV if...

  • You know all the names of the characters on "Desperate Housewives" but you can't name the thirteen apostles .
  • You can guess ending of a "Boston Legal" episode, but you don't remember how the New Testament ends.
  • Your cable bill each month is more than your contribution to your local church.

Supplementary reading: Stewardship of possessions

Monday, May 29, 2006

The problem with 'The Da Vinci Code'

Mark Gudgel, reviewer for Relevant magazine, says that the problem with the Da Vinci Code movie is that it is a movie. Movies let people not think ... just experience. Many people may blindly assume that the fiction is based on fact.
"Just as it is somewhat terrifying to realize that many people’s primary understanding of the final days of Christ, of the crucifixion and atonement, came to them courtesy of Mel Gibson, so is it equally frightening to think that perhaps The Da Vinci Code, in all of its mass-media splendor, may be some people’s foundation for understanding Church history or Christian belief." -- Mark Gudgel

Friday, May 26, 2006

Stewardship: Kiss snows of Kilimanjaro goodbye

The rise of just a few degrees in average world temperature will raise ocean levels about half a meter by 2100. So say nearly all scientists who've studied the issue, according to John Harte, University of California, Berkeley. Harte was speaking at the U.S.-China Symposium on Climate Change at UC Berkeley this week. Even Evangelicals agree that global warming is real and we need to act now.

But that's not all. Warmer air means less snow, including on snow-capped Mt. Kilimanjaro. By 2020, Kilimanjaro could have a bare top, and that's just the good news, Harte says.

A related issue is soot (black carbon particles). Liquid and most solid aeosols actually cool the air mass under them, but soot soaks up heat and warms the air mass . Diesel engines produce soot. Outdoor fires produce soot. Global warming will increase the amount of wildfires. Many nations are trying to encourage use of diesel in vehicles.

Carbon dioxide is the number one cause of global warming, yet soot doesn't stay aloft as long as carbon dioxide. So reducing soot has a faster cooling effect, though CO2 emissions need to be reduced drastically. The Kyoto Protocol is a great step forward, but Kyoto ignores black carbon problems. Does anyone see the problem here? Is delaying action on climate change a foolhardy gamble?

"An Inconvenient Truth", a film about the impact of global warming, has started playing in select theaters. Watch for it in your area.

More folks find religious left right

A recent Washington Post article, "Religious liberals gain new visibillity", appearing on, reports that the religious left is gaining in popularity and influence. These Christians are fed up with conservatives incorrectly claiming that their views are the only morally correct ones. Followers of Christ who once wanted to stay "above the fray" may now be starting to speak out and get involved.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Church is not the same anymore

In his blog posting, "Difficult but not Impossible", Bishop Swanson of the Holston Conference says, "If there is one thing we know today about 'doing church,' it is that church is not the same today as it was 40, 30, 20, or even 10 years ago." Pastors (and congregations) need to adapt.

So maybe "gimme that ol time religion" is more for singing than following?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Discover religious shows

The Discovery Channel has a lot of prior show and news material online. Here are some related to religion:

UMM and UMW losing appeal?

United Methodist Men (UMM) and United Methodist Women (UMW) have experienced declines in many churches. Rev. Larry Hollon Larry Saunders, one of the many (and I do mean many) people who contribute to the Locusts and Honey blog, suggests that perhaps the traditional mission and purposes of these groups doesn't appeal to young adults. There are several comments.

I hate to say it, but the Web site for the General Commission on United Methodist Men is a very old FrontPage style with hover buttons and slowly displays on my screen despite the cable modem's ample speed. Is this just one more indicator of not being "with it"?

Friday, May 19, 2006

Jesus: God or Man?

The ACTS International web site has an excellent online tract, "Jesus Christ: Is he God or Man?". Of course, I wince a bit when Christians use "Christ" as though it was Jesus' last name. Christ comes from the Greek word pronounced "Christos" and means the same as the Hebrew word for "Messiah".

So if you really want to avoid inappropriately using Christ as a last name, perhaps you could say, "Jesus the Christ".

Toons tickle spiritual funny bone

Cartoons can be fun, funny, or sometimes crude. When it comes to those related to religion, few are crude. But there are some so-so ones. A few I like are Church of the Covered Dish, Church Mice, and Reverend Fun. Our church subscribes to Church of the Covered Dish (there's a small fee involved for this toon series).

Here are some favorite "ReligiToons":

Where should children worship?

It's the age old debate -- should children remain with parents in the "Adult" worship service or attend a separate "Children's Church" or similar? In fact, many churches today take a sort of middle ground, where the children stay in the sanctuary until a certain point, then attend "Children's Church".

Children's Ministry Magazine got over 2000 responses to a poll about the topic. Slightly less than half favored keeping children in the main worship, while a bit more than half preferred a separate worship experience for children.
Read opposing comments on "Where should Children Worship?" by two children's ministers.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Check your theological worldview

The QuizFarm site has an interesting theology quiz. I scored highest as an Emergent/Postmodern Protestant. Here's the description for that group:

You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don't think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan57%
Roman Catholic54%
Classical Liberal46%
Neo orthodox46%
Reformed Evangelical43%
Modern Liberal36%

What's your theological worldview?
created with

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal -- What's the difference?

Jo Carter gives a whimsical reply to a Catholic asking about the differences among these three Protestant denominations . You'll find the reply amusing, as captured at the Locusts And Honey blog.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Immodesty at church

When surveyed, 76% of children's ministers said they're fed up with immodesty at church, but a sizeable 24% said that we need more tolerance of today's fashion trends. Bare midriffs ... display of cleavage ... exposed underwear ... skin-tight blouses ... skirts so short that the girl can hardly navigate stairs ...

Do these really honor God? Read the whole " Indecent Exposure" article.

The Gospel of Debbie

OK, there's this young high school girl named Debbie. And she's just met the coolest guy -- Jesus. The New Yorker article by Paul Rudnick is a humorous look at the situation, in diary form. It's way cool (or maybe "it's the bomb" [... that will get Homeland Security to read this blog!] ).

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Friday, May 12, 2006

Sermon library serves all

Gateway (United Methodist) Church archives sermons online. Some pastors shudder at the thought, though. Why is that; are there solutions?

A big reason for shunning online sermons, some Pastors have told me, is that they fear that serving up Sunday sermons on the web just entices some people to skip attending church on a few Sundays when they might otherwise attend. To help lessen that temptation, Gateway waits a few weeks before adding the sermon online. On May 12th, the April 23rd sermon was the latest posted, for example.

Here's another thought -- people who'd skip church if the sermons were online might skip church anyway. In that case, having sermons online might just reach them with a spiritual message they'd otherwise miss. The up-side of adding sermons online is that the pastoral message reaches more people -- affects more lives. That's what the sermons is for, right?

In fact, consider adding a condensed sermon outline just above the text. It helps people mentally prepare to read the text. So don't hesitate -- archive those sermons online. Reach out into the world!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

What is Methodism?

St. Andrew's by the Sea UMC in San Clemente, California, has a good video series. (Windows Media file format) You can find them at their Methodism 101 page:
Gateway Church (a United Methodist Church, though they seem to avoid admitting that in their name for some reason) has a 10-part series on "Theology 101 for Methodists". Here's their information on what United Methodists believe about...

Know who you're evangelizing

Ben Gray, at "Blog Ministry," says that when we start to evangelize, we need to understand the culture of the people who are our "target audience". He briefly discusses boosting your effectiveness as a youth minister by understanding today's youth and pop culture. For example, he says that young kids prefer IM and MySpace to email. Read the comments, too -- there's some interesting stuff there.

On the front lines of global warming

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has a page about "Witnesses to climate change" that has blurbs and links to articles about four people who describe what climate change has done to their area and their lives.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Faith vs. a political agenda

The most-emailed link on Google this afternoon was "My problem with Christianism". In the Time article online, Andrew Sullivan voices concern about the ongoing attempt by some Christians to paint anyone who disagrees with their particular view of Christianity as "godless" or worse.

Monday, May 08, 2006

God's earth: Hotter climate in the future

The NOAA site has a good page summarizing global warming trends and predictions for the future of God's earth. The conclusions are especially significant in view of the current Administration's seeming tendency to ignore scientific facts and theories and stifle scientific research that don't fit its political agenda.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Take the Pulse of evangelism

The Lausanne World Pulse free online magazine contains lots of interesting news, information, and analysis of evangelism, outreach, and missionaries. The home page always dishes up the current issue -- May as of this writing. The May issue has a mini-bio about Jennie Fowler Willing, a strong supporter of women's involvement in missions in North America.

Among other things, Mrs. Willing served as an officer in the Woman's Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. "In many ways, she was Methodism's Susan B. Anthony, and was certainly Evanston's and Illinois Methodism's most famous woman in history." [Quoted at "The Des Plaines Methodist Camp Ground", by CDCGA -- cached at Google].

The mini-bio in the magazine is topical and timely, since with Heritage Sunday 2006 on May 26th, the United Methodist Church celebrates 50 years of full clergy rights for women.
Related links:

Friday, May 05, 2006

Miracle Money Chicken

"The Mystery of the Money Chicken" describes a church's experience that passing around to youth a chicken flower pot as a collection plate got better results than other methods. Interesting. Can your church adopt some similar practice and get better giving?

This posting came from the "Alas! and did my Savior Blog?" blog, penned by a young man preparing to go into pastoral ministry in the UMC.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Too cool toward global warming?

"It is now plain that the emission of greenhouse gases' causing global warming at a rate that is unsustainable," said Tony Blair in a forward to a report of the British Met (meteorological) office. Even modest temperature increases could disrupt ocean currents and plunge Europe into a mini ice age.

Canada says the link between human activity and global warming is undeniable . Furthermore, a recent poll shows that 71 percent of Americans also believe that global warming is for real. An even greater percentage, 75%, want more Federal action on global warming. They are even willing to sacrifice to do something about it.
What is your church doing to protect God's earth? Are you part of the solution?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

'Be' church, don't 'Do' church

In " The Unattractive", Pastor Jim Hoffman, Lee's Summit UMC, says that churches are failing when they get stuck in "doing" church instead of "being" the church.

More ways to read these postings

You can always come to this blog's web page to read the posts. That's my personal preference. But if you start subscribing to a "bunch o' blogs", the number of new articles may get large. One way to manage scanning them for what you really want to read is to use a " Feed Reader", which I've mentioned in prior posts.

Blog readers (a.k.a. feed readers or RSS readers) come in two basic forms -- web-based and ones installed on your PC. The web-based variety involves setting up an account at Google, Yahoo! or similar wites, then adding blogs to track. You log onto the Web site to see new headlines from the blogs in your list. The local install method gives you a program. When you run the program, many of which look similar to MS Outlook, you "subscribe" to blogs. The program then pulls down information about the blog postings and you read as you like.

Here are a few recently touted feed readers (blog readers):

Monday, May 01, 2006

Pew Forum smells nice

The Pew Forum of Religion & Public Life has a lot of great links, surveys, news, ...

One tidbit:
Americans strongly favor increased government aid to the poor. According to a July 2005 poll conducted by the Pew Forum and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 69% of Americans favor providing more generous government assistance to the poor.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

In praise of NGOs

Former president Bill Clinton praised non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in his April 26th speech before InterAction Annual Forum. InterAction is the American Council for Voluntary International Action. Clinton points to the rise of democracy and the Internet as main factors in the increase in NGOs and their effectiveness.

His speech also mentions Bill and Melinda Gates' work as well as that of Bono. It also relates anecdotes of Russian President Putin and others.

The former president serves as UN Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery and works to help areas stricken by Hurricane Katrina. His foundation promotes the fairness and opportunity for everyone and works to lower the cost of HIV/AIDS medications and tests in the developing world.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Make disciples!

United Methodist Pastor Steven Manskar proposes a church Disciple-Making system that is Wesleyan in its theology. His blog posting outlines bulding blocks for accomplishing that.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Wesley Foundations need revival

Chuck Russell, a former Internet Resource Consultant for United Methodist Communications, says that United Methodists really messed up when they let Wesley Foundations flounder and disappear from college campuses.

In "Aging Clergy: Where are the 30-year-olds", he points out that the number of clergy under 35 has plummeted from about 3,220 in 1985 to a lowly 850 now. He quotes a UMNS article. And he lays a good bit of the cause for that at the doorstep of weak or disappeared Wesley Foundation efforts.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

UMC membership growth concerns Bishop

Our Membership is Growing, But... is a blog article by Bishop Lindsey Davis, North Georgia Conference, on the Gateway Church [UMC] site.

'God" vs. "He'

"Is God Transgendered?" is a thought-provoking article examination of the United Methodist trend to encourage gender-neutral expressions of God. The result is sometimes such stilted and unnatural language structures as , "May God add God's blessing to the reading of God's Word". Yet many of the same pastors who use these awkward phrasings have no problem saying, "Our Father who art in Heaven". It seems a bit schizophrenic [the Greek schizo (split, divide) + phrenos (mind) = shattered mind]. And if pastors are confusingly schizophrenic about the use of "His" or "Him" when talking about God, does this negatively affect members of the congregation?

Let's all grant that the Bible was written in a strongly patriarchal society. But let's also never forget that Jesus addressed God as Abba (Father) and that we hold God to be the reason Mary got pregnant. That does seem a tad male-like to me.

One key aspect that seems to go unaddressed in this personal pronoun issue is that churches have less men than women. Why would we want to deliberately structure language in a way that will be a turn-off to at least some men? Are we focusing on the wrong gender in our congregations when we jump on the gender-neutral bandwagon? Will that have a net result of reducing male attendance at United Methodist churches even more?

Personally, I assume that when we treat God as male-like it's more so that we can get a better grasp of the unknowable, coupled with the comfort of tradition. God may well be neither male nor female, in our meager understanding of human gender. I really don't care. God is God. I just cringe at stilted, unnatural phrases in my worship and Sunday School.

Pastors that have some need to avoid using personal pronouns for God have an obligation to those to whom they will speak to deliberately construct and then use more natural phrasings. How about, "May God bless this reading of the Word" for example. What would God think about that phrasing? I'm sure She'd be happy with it.

Of Blogs and Bishops

As more clergy begin to blog, it's including Bishops too. Below are a few examples of Bishops who blog or are quoted in blogs: