Category : Methodist

Will Willimon–Christian Talk about the Sin of Racism

Christians are determined by the conviction that a brown-skinned Jew””whose body was publically tortured to death on a cross by a consortium of government and religious officials, and whose crucified body was resurrected from the dead, opening up the realm of God to people of every color, including people who believe their skin is without color””is the truth about God.

The invention of whiteness is the sin of designating humanity by reference to physical characteristics for the purpose of one race (white) dominating nonwhite races. Race is humanly conceived, structurally maintained, deeply personal, and (from a specifically Christian standpoint) sin.

Because power is used to maintain and institutionalize racial privilege, racism is more insidious than disorganized, infrequent racist acts by disconnected individuals. Though a social construction, rooted in sinful misunderstandings of our humanity in Christ, race is a political reality that has far-reaching economic, social, and individual deleterious consequences.

While race is a fiction, a human construction, racism is a fact.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, * South Carolina, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Methodist, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology

More From Will Willimon–What are you hoping for at Christmas?

….one could learn a great deal from the question, “What do you hope to get for Christmas?” For if you know our hopes, you fairly well know us. If you want to know who a person really is, and plans to be, inquire into what that person is hoping for.

What are you hoping for?

I expect that is what most of us think religion is about, the fulfillment of our hopes. We hope to find peace in our anxious lives. So we come to church on Sunday morning hoping that the music of the hymns, the words of scripture and preaching may fill us with a sense of peace.

We hope for thoughtful, reflective lives. So we come to church on Sunday morning hoping for an interesting sermon, something that will help us to use our minds, something that will test our intellects, make us think about things in a way we haven’t thought before…..

The trouble is that the Gospels seem to engage in a continual debate with people’s hopes and expectations. Jesus came, light into our darkness. But the problem with Jesus was he was not the sort of light that we expected. That is where the trouble started. Jesus was the hope of the world. But he was not the hope for which the world was hoping!

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Christmas, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Methodist, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology

More William Willimon for Christmas–Word Made Flesh

It’s a story so strange we could not have dreamed it up by ourselves, this story of how God was incarnate in Jesus the Christ. An embarrassing pregnancy, a poor peasant couple forced to become undocumented immigrants in Egypt soon after the birth of their baby, King Herod’s slaughter of the Jewish boy babies in a vain attempt to put an end to this new “King,” From the beginning the story of Jesus is the strangest story of all. A Messiah who avoids the powerful and the prestigious and goes to the poor and dispossessed? A Savior who is rejected by many of those whom he sought to save? A King who reigns from a bloody cross? Can this one with us be God?

And yet Christians believe that this story, for all its strangeness, is true. Here we have a truthful account of how our God read us back into the story of God. This is a truthful depiction not only of who God really is but also of how we who were lost got found, redeemed, restored, and saved by a God who refused to let our rejection and rebellion (our notorious “God problem”) be the final word in the story.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Christmas, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Methodist, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology

William Willimon for Christmas 2016: From a God We Hardly Knew

It’s tough to be on the receiving end of love, God’s or anybody else’s. It requires that we see our lives not as our possessions, but as gifts. “Nothing is more repugnant to capable, reasonable people than grace,” wrote John Wesley a long time ago.

Among the most familiar Christmas texts is the one in Isaiah: “The Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (7:14) Less familiar is its context: Isaiah has been pleading with King Ahaz to put his trust in God’s promise to Israel rather than in alliances with strong military powers like Syria. “If you will not believe, you shall not be established,” Isaiah warns Ahaz (7:9). Then the prophet tells the fearful king that God is going to give him a baby as a sign. A baby. Isn’t that just like God, Ahaz must have thought. What Ahaz needed, with Assyria breathing down his neck, was a good army, not a baby.

This is often the way God loves us: with gifts we thought we didn’t need, which transform us into people we don’t necessarily want to be. With our advanced degrees, armies, government programs, material comforts and self-fulfillment techniques, we assume that religion is about giving a little, of our power in order to confirm to ourselves that we are indeed as self-sufficient as we claim.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Christmas, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Methodist, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology

Terry Mattingly: Tom Oden's pilgrimage into ancient Christianity

This [Will] Herberg challenge radically affected Oden’s work in the 1970s, as he evolved from backing an edgy liberalism to spreading an ecumenical approach to orthodoxy in shelves of books. Oden kept publishing into the final years of his life, until his Dec. 8 death at the age of 85. “Here was a guy who — until his mid-40s — had been a success on that career track in the contemporary academy,” said Seamands. Oden had a Yale University doctorate and thrived in an era “built on the idea that new is better and that you looked down on anything old. You were supposed to idealize whatever people called the latest thing. That’s how you got ahead.”

In the 1950s, Oden embraced Marxism, existentialism and the demythologization of Scripture. He was an early leader among Christians supporting abortion rights. In the 1960s he plunged into transactional analysis, Gestalt therapy, parapsychology and what, in one of my first encounters with him, he called “mild forms of the occult.”

As he dug into early church writings from the ancient East and West, Oden came to the conclusion that “I had been in love with heresy.” In a 2012 interview with Good News magazine, Oden explained: “My basic question early on in the 1970s was, is the Resurrection really just an idea or is it a fact of history? … Did this Jesus rise from the dead? Not symbolically, not just as a fragile memory of the earliest Christian rememberers, not just as an ever-questionable matter of fallible human remembering, but did Jesus actually rise from the dead. And finally, I did believe. And that changed my life.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Methodist, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

Touchstones Obituary for Thomas Oden (October 21, 1931-December 8, 2016): Paleo-Orthodox Theologian

He once described his theological pilgrimage to me as a series of twists and turns that carried him through liberalism, the social gospel, psychotherapy, and neo-orthodoxy, before eventually bringing him back home to classical Christianity, or what he preferred to call “paleo-orthodoxy.” Oden’s earlier years as leftward-leaning theologian can be traced through his publications, engagement, and interaction with Rudolph Bultmann (1964), Karl Barth (1969), and Soren Kierkegaard (1978). Each of these publications seemed to move him closer to historical orthodoxy, even as he explored the relationship of theology to psychotherapy in various works along the way (1967.1969, 1972,1974), always with an eye on pastoral ministry and the relationship of theology to the church.

In 1979, he sent a wake-up call to others, inviting them to join in his return to convictional and classical orthodoxy with the volume, Agenda for Theology. This publication served as the forerunner for his carefully-conceived, comprehensively-designed, and thoughtfully-written, three-volume systematic theology (1987, 1989, 1992), which drew deeply on the writings of the church fathers. The heartbeat and message of these three volumes were summarized in one of my favorite works, The Rebirth of Orthodoxy (2003). Oden, the Wesleyan theologian, joined with his Calvinist friend J. I. Packer to co-author an important resource on the confessional consensus of believers through the ages, the faith once for all delivered to the saints, which was called, One Faith: The Evangelical Consensus.

Oden’s massive theological project recognized that modernity did not satisfy and that the curiosity for the new, the novel, and the creative did not in itself serve the church well.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Books, Methodist, Other Churches, Race/Race Relations, Theology

Methodist Theologian Thomas Oden 1931-2016, RIP, Champion of Christian Orthodoxy

Theologian Thomas C. Oden, one of Methodism’s and American Christianity’s most esteemed theologians, passed away at his home in Oklahoma last night.

An emeritus board member who chaired the board of the Institute on Religion & Democracy in Washington, D.C. for six years, Oden was also professor emeritus at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.

Oden remained a prolific writer in his final years. A scholar of the Early Church Fathers, he edited the nearly two dozen volume Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. His most recent books are on early African Christianity and on the social ethics of John Wesley, including Systematic Theology and most recently Turning Around the Mainline and How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Books, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Methodist, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

(TGC) Alastair Roberts–Lessons from the Collapse of American Protestantism

Up through the 1960s, members and institutions of the Protestant mainline dominated American public life. To be sure, this dominance was not without serious issues””most notably, the exclusion of “Catholics, Jews, blacks, and atheists from nearly every position of influence in American life.” The significant demographic changes brought about by post-war immigration did nothing but exacerbate this problem.

Through these developments, influential mainline thinkers such as Harvey Cox and Paul Tillich responded by abandoning Christian particularism. Gleason writes:

They focused on the church’s social obligations, which they emphasized at the expense of the exclusivity and particularity of traditional doctrinal claims. In one famous formulation, Tillich argued that Christianity was just one of many ways to touch “the ground of being.” Symbols, religious and otherwise, all inadequately represented their ineffable subjects, but they also pointed beyond themselves to this ground of being, which Tillich called God. If Tillich was right, then mainline Protestants had no reason to distrust people of other faiths. Perhaps their beliefs were not so different after all.

This liberal thought was disseminated to millions of congregants by mainline Protestant clergy. They taught the values of “individualism, tolerance, pluralism, and emancipation from tradition”””and, in so doing, played a pivotal role in creating the culture in which we now live.

By virtue of their very “success,” however, mainline churches became a “vanishing mediator.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Church History, Episcopal Church (TEC), History, Lutheran, Methodist, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Theology, United Church of Christ

(1st Things) Barton Swaim on Hillary Clinton: Boomer Pharisaism

There is a kind of baby-boomer Pharisaism in Clinton’s outlook. It’s an outlook that recognizes the existence of evil, yes, but the evil is always located in other people, never in oneself; it’s always out there somewhere””in society, in discriminatory practices, in “backward-looking policies,” in partisan climates, in “an interlocking network of groups and individuals who want to turn the clock back on many of the advances our country has made” (this last an explanation, in Living History, of her notorious reference to a “vast right-wing conspiracy” in 1998).

Clinton is the product, first, of the midcentury Protestant liberalism of her upbringing””she was raised in a solidly mainline Methodist church outside Chicago””and, second, the countercultural protests of the 1960s. These are very different cultural phenomena in many respects, but both tended to locate human wickedness in institutions, social trends, historical processes. War, consumerism, social injustice, poverty, the “military”“industrial complex”: the problem was always some kind of social or political circumstance, never man himself and certainly not one’s own heart. For Clinton, an honest admission of wrongdoing isn’t something to avoid doing; it isn’t a thing at all. Except in some extreme case in which the individual admits his part in an institutional or political sin (Lee Atwater’s late confession of cruelty to political opponents, perhaps), decent, right-thinking people can’t admit to wrongdoing because wrongdoing isn’t really the result of individual decisions.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Marriage & Family, Methodist, Office of the President, Other Churches, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

George Mamoulides responds to last week's Kenneth Woodward column on the "methodist Moment

From here:

In reading Kenneth L. Woodward’s “The Democrats’ Methodist Moment” [see there], I am struck by both the views of Hillary Clinton and the observations of Mr. Woodward about the United Methodist Church, other Protestant denominations, the Catholic church and many Jews, and their connection with the progressive Democratic Party’s righteous politics with the attending social-justice traditions.

It’s funny that in an article like this, with all of its religious implications, there is no mention of Jesus Christ, his teachings and place in Christianity. Could it be that’s the reason there are now more “Nones” (people with no religious affiliation) than ever before, and the so-called “Christian church” is in decline? For many reasons, I don’t think that John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, would recognize the United Methodist Church today.

George Mamoulides

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Christology, History, Methodist, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(JE) John Lomperis–5 Ways the new United Methodist Bishops’ Commission Can Foster Trust

….our denominational dialogues specifically on homosexuality have suffered from a skewing of the voices heard.

One should always be careful in guessing at the motives of others. But it seems safe to assume that when Love Prevails demands the inclusion of “LGBT people” as commission members, particularly when Love Prevails declares that it cannot be appeased by the inclusion of some “Queer people who are moderate and acceptable to [our bishops’] vision of polite conversation,” the sort of people it has in mind are not Christians who find themselves to be same-sex-attracted but choose to remain celibate for life, out of their deep personal support for the moral boundaries affirmed in our Discipline.

But such voices are important….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Asia, Ethics / Moral Theology, Methodist, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(SHNS) Pat Summitt never hid her quiet, strong faith

Once a year, Seymour United Methodist Church in Tennessee held a “Laity Day,” in which folks from the pews would handle all the clergy stuff one Sunday — including the sermon.

The year was 1984, early in the Rev. Charles Maynard’s decade at this fledgling congregation near Knoxville. He already knew that one active member had a knack for motivational speaking, since she coached the University of Tennessee’s Lady Vols basketball team.

“This was before she turned into Pat Summitt, you know? For me, she was just a lady at church named Pat,” said Maynard, now the district superintendent of the region’s Maryville District. “I asked her to speak and she said she didn’t feel comfortable doing that sort of thing. …

“But the next year, she said ”˜yes.’ She talked about teamwork and linked everything to people having their own roles in the Body of Christ. It was all very biblical and she did a great job. I mean, she’s Pat Summitt.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., History, Methodist, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Sports, Women, Young Adults

Western Jurisdiction elects a Untd Methodist bishop who is a woman married to another woman

Bishop Melvin Talbert, retired from the Western Jurisdiction, said he wasn’t sure he would ever live to see the day when the church would elect an openly gay bishop.

“This means our church ”” at least part of our church ”” has finally come to the realization that there is no longer any place for exclusion. We are all children of God regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or abilities. We would be blessed to invite all God’s people to their rightful place at the table.”

In a statement issued following Oliveto’s election, Bishop Bruce R. Ough, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, said, “This election raises significant concerns and questions of church polity and unity.”

Ough clarified that the Council of Bishops does not have constitutional authority to intervene in the election, but “is monitoring this situation very closely.”

He acknowledged that some in the church will view this election as a violation of church law and a significant step toward a split, while others will consider it a milestone toward being a more inclusive church.

“Our differences are real and cannot be glossed over, but they are also reconcilable,” Ough said. “We are confident God is with us, especially in uncharted times and places.”

Read it all from UMNS.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Methodist, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(RNS) Mark Tooley–United Methodism’s global evangelical transformation

At the recent General Conference, talk of a formal church split became more salient. A prominent self-professed centrist pastor suggested a three-way division among liberals, moderates and conservatives. Some liberal voices, frustrated by their declining influence, for the first time publicly sympathized with schism. A formal church split appeals to some as the ostensibly easy solution to nearly half a century of conflict over sexuality.

Except there would be little easy about it. Most United Methodist congregations are not homogeneously liberal or conservative or even centrist. A typical local church has a wide range of perspectives, reinforced by the denomination’s clergy appointment system, in which liberal clergy often are appointed by bishops to more conservative churches, and vice versa. A formal denominational schism would likely mean anguishing division in thousands of United Methodism’s more than 30,000 congregations, accompanied by years of litigation. The ultimate winners would be few.

Maybe such a cataclysmic denominational split for America’s third largest church eventually will occur. (A thoughtful proposal at this year’s General Conference allowing liberal churches that dissent from church teaching on sexuality passed in committee, but it got no plenary vote because of deferral of sexuality legislation to the bishops.) Some hope that the bishops’ new study commission on sexuality will propose formal division.

I expect and prefer a less disruptive scenario….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, * Resources & Links, Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Methodist, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(UMNS) Methodist Delegates react to plan to defer human sexuality petitions

Love will keep us together, the Rev. Eli Sule Yakku of Central Nigeria said at the end of a long day filled with both kind and harsh words on the floor of the 2016 General Conference over lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people and their role in The United Methodist Church.

The day started with a silent vigil by LGBTQ clergy and clergy candidates. Delegates walked past people wearing robes and holding crosses draped with “Shower of Stoles.” Many United Methodist clergy and clergy candidates came out as gay in the past two weeks.

During a particularly tense moment, a delegate rose and asked Bishop William T. McAlilly to step down as the presiding officer.

The decision to accept a recommendation from the Council of Bishops held all votes on human sexuality and referred all that legislation and the entire subject to a yet-to-be named special commission that will examine “every paragraph in our Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Methodist, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture